What is required to create a group mind?
Where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts?
Healthy human minds have the ability to resolve disputes without animosity, without making, or defeating enemies.
Our brains and nervous systems are wired to gather as much data as the time and circumstances allow, and to then understand and evaluate a myriad of possibilities, risks, and opportunities, and then to come up with the best solution – that time and circumstances will allow.
This enables the owner of the mind (the person) to take action as quickly as needed, rather than wasting time and energy fighting internal battles for supremacy, inside her mind, or becoming frozen with fear of making a mistake – fear of losing.
A healthy mind welcomes and thrives on diversity of opinions, including contradictory ones.
Such a mind does this routinely and often without our conscious awareness, for example when we are listening to a voice that is difficult to hear, and trying to make sense of what is being said, and what the underlying meanings and implications are; or when we are looking at the sky for clues about the weather.
A healthy mind also consciously welcomes a diversity of data and opinions, for example, when participating in a valued and trusted team, working to find a solution to a complex problem.
A valued and trusted team is like a healthy mind.
In a healthy team, as in a healthy mind, there is no dread of differences, of complexity, of apparent contradictions, or of periods of uncertainty. There is also a willingness to take action to test ideas before final acceptance or rejection of a possible interpretation or solution. There is a strong sense of working together, rather than competing.
Yet in a team there can be a healthy sense of competition; which is healthy only so long as the competition does not become more important than working together to solve a common problem.
A healthy, highly-functioning team is an example of a group mind.
So, actually, we already know how to create group minds. We do it all the time. We use common purpose and common sense, management techniques, group facilitation methods, scientific procedures, and methods for publishing, distributing, sharing, testing, and comparing data and knowledge. We now use the Internet, high-speed, intelligent communications technologies, social media, complex, and data-intensive analytics.
A healthy, highly-functioning community, society, nation or world are larger examples of a group mind.
However, such examples are often more aspirations rather than realities, especially as the scale increases. But they are all possible. Very possible.
Creating healthy, large-scale group minds is more difficult
The problem is lack of health. Lack of wholeness. A dysfunctional society, or group mind, is full of emotion-laden biases, fears, animosity, internal hostilities, greed, bitter or violent competitions (winner-take-all), or is simply deeply fragmented and incapable of making good decisions. All of these traits are indicators of very unhealthy group minds – so unhealthy as to be called insane, broken. So broken it doesn’t feel right to call them minds at all.
So to create a group mind it is really necessary to create a healthy group mind.
The path to healthy group minds has this kind of progression:
Listening, empathy, acceptance, mutual respect, mutual understanding, mutual appreciation (love), collaboration (team-work), the ability to make whole-group decisions and take whole-group action even when there is uncertainty, the ability to adapt, grow, and prosper together.
The first step is simply listening. All the rest of the steps are about harmonizing.
To be able to really listen is a sign of great mental and spiritual health. To really listen, one has to step back from dearly-held positions (at least temporarily).
This is ultimately a deeply spiritual practice: “Letting go,” “Trusting God” “Trusting Life”, “Transcending the ego.,” - ultimately caring more about the whole, and each other, rather than about our own little (but important) part.
For many (most) it is not at all easy. But there are ways that we, together, can make it easier.
Part Two: Imagine a Conversation that can amplify trust and collaboration, and involve millions… next post