As technology matures, savvy business leaders are embracing the digital business model to enhance innovation and competitiveness. Critical to the success of the digital business is an organization's Connectional Intelligence (CxQ), or the ability to combine people, disciplines and resources to forge value-creating connections. More to the point Connectional Intelligence is the capability to deliver breakthrough innovation and results by harnessing the value of relationships and networks.

A new paradigm: thinking differently

The digital business model is about moving technology to the forefront to generate revenue, market share, corporate value and innovation. Connectional Intelligence is about connecting internal and external people intelligently to enhance organizational performance.

The CxQ concept was introduced by authors Erica Dhawan and Saj-nicole A. Jonie in the book, Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence. Just as the digital business model is not simply about IT, Connectional Intelligence is not simply about gathering as many followers as possible. CxQ pushes leaders to think differently about how they engage with networks, moving beyond simple communication systems, like noise-filled social media, and becoming problem-solving sources. The basis for this is a governance structure capable of quickly acting on network-produced insights and creativity. The digital business model and CxQ require a willingness to make necessary changes in functions, people groupings, resource allocation and process designs.

Breaking down barriers

True creativity emerges from an innovation ecosystem that can cross boundaries, encourage informal initiatives and respond quickly. Increasing Connectional Intelligence depends on analytical forecasting tools, shared forums of knowledge, open workforce communication systems and management that cultivates relationships.

The integration of the digital business model and CxQ can bring remarkable results because both are enablers of innovation. Consider the case study of Colgate-Palmolive, one of the world's industry giants. The company's R&D department was unable to develop a system for mixing fluoride and toothpaste without dispersing it to the air while filling the toothpaste tube.

With no answers in sight, Colgate-Palmolive posted the specifications of the challenge on InnoCentive, a cloud-based innovation management platform businesses use to crowdsource ideas. Edward Melcarek, a mostly unemployed electrical engineer who regularly surfed InnoCentive, had an answer within minutes of reading the specs. It was basic physics: ground the tube and put a positive charge on the fluoride, so the particles would be attracted to the tube and not disperse into the air. However, this answer would have been impossible to reach – or at the very least taken longer to reach – had it not been for Colgate-Palmolive’s Connectional Intelligence. By working with external parties, Colgate-Palmolive harnessed the power of their network to achieve innovation and push their business forward.

Sharing a "business moment"

Both Colgate-Palmolive and Melcarek had a shared "business moment," which in the digital business model is a brief moment that sets in motion a chain of events. These moments force companies to rethink their places in the value stream, and Connectional Intelligence becomes a strategic asset. Companies like IBM and Pfizer are raising their CxQ by collaborating with smaller, younger and more agile companies that are more in tune with the rapidly changing market.

Connectional Intelligence is not about building networks alone. Colgate-Palmolive could have joined the external InnoCentive network and then failed to be open to creative ideas. A company must have a culture that encourages creativity in order to truly embrace connectional intelligence and its business benefits. Slow-moving organizations that do not develop digital business capabilities and a high Connectional Intelligence level are going to find they are left behind as eager innovators connect, share and take leaps in creativity.

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