Collective Wisdom and Group Dynamics

Submitted by markholmgren on October 19, 2010 - 6:23pm
from Anticipate!

I think most of us would agree that "group think" can cover more ground and depth than "me-think." More bright minds addressing an issue or forging an innovation make more sense than Mister "I-Know-Best" going it alone. All of us have likely been a member of a magical group, a group that just clicked and got good stuff done. Okay, maybe “magical” is not the right word but perhaps what this kind of group achieves is what John Ott might call “transcendence.” (John was one of the keynote speakers at the recent Tamarack CCI conference and one of the authors of The Power of Collective Wisdom. I recommend the book).

Now before you accuse me of going all guru-esque on you, the transcendence I am referring to is not about white robes, chanting, or long gray beards. Rather I mean that an effective group that moves together based on collective wisdom and a common aim becomes in effect an entity that is greater than (or that trancends) each individual. John Ott, I think, might refer to transcendance as a higher power (something greater than ourselves, a unifier, an inspiration, a guide).

It’s not a religous thing in my mind, but what I appreciate about John’s work is that he includes the spiritual in his thinking and work, which is something we often shy away from in our clinical, professional, dogmatic approaches to life and work.

All too often we experience difficult, if not dysfunctional groups. The reasons why there are difficulties vary with context and membership, but there are common themes in my experience which include:

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