Posts Tagged 'dialogue'

How to Create a Group Mind

What is required to create a group mind?

Where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts?

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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…  coming in the near future.

Swimming in the Global Conversation

I recently contributed a post with the title above to the Verifeed blog.  Verifeed is a new company and service that is helping make our feeds and conversations more relevant and our sources more credible.

The full post is here:  http://verifeed.com/learning-to-swim-in-the-global-conversation/.

Here is an excerpt specifically about global conversations:

I want to be able to have conversations about things that are important to me, with people I like, and with others I’d like if I knew them better;

And I would like to be able to see the local and global connections between my conversations and the conversations of others who share my interests, but who don’t always share my perspectives.

That is, (getting further out), I would like to see how my thinking and conversations fit with the rest of the conversations in my communities and the world. Are we each getting only a small part of the picture; are we getting more or less fragmented; are we actually learning from each other – and if so, what are we learning. Etc.

Some of this is further in the future, but I think it’s doable.

Restoring Democratic Government

Obviously a lot of people are working on this.  These ideas are a brief compilation of some of the best solutions.

An overwhelming majority of Americans, conservative, progressive, and moderate, want a well-functioning democratic government.   But we have different definitions for what that means – because we use different terms and listen to different sources, and because we don’t listen well to each other.

This has been a perfect opportunity for special interests and corruption to whittle away at “government for the people and by the people” and to shift our democracy to either government for the special interests and by the special interests, or else to gridlock.

The principles that make corruption work are:  “divide and conquer” (pit citizen against citizen) and “hide the true motives” (pretend to be interested in “reforming” government but in actuality work for one’s own profit and special interests).

To protect and restore real democracy, we the people need to re-unite, and to do that we need to explore and expose the corruption that has drastically weakened democratic government.

There are a few principles that can guide us:

To expose corruption: Verify the facts and Follow the money.

To restore democracy:  Listen to each other and Engage in authentic dialogue.

To regenerate governmentElect candidates who care about all Americans.  This means we must elect people who are not beholden to special interests and mega-contributions from super-wealthy people and corporations.

These are principles that we can all agree on.  Armed with these we can expose corruption, start dialoguing with each other, and restore democracy.

The 2nd post in this series will expand on “Follow the money” using privatization of public resources as an example.

A Long Affair with Three Big Ideas about Collective Consciousness

In thinking recently about what I like to do and think and talk about – for example, using and creating tools that enhance collective intelligence – I realized that my main interests have been pretty much the same for most of my adult life (about forty-five years) – and most of them were originally inspired by three Big Ideas that I came upon almost immediately after graduating from high school.

Of course my very earliest influences, from floating in the womb to end of high school also immensely affected me.  And my wife, and closest friends and family, and innumerable conversations and journeys have shaped me hugely, as well.  But the three Big Ideas gripped me and still grip me in their own special way.

The three big ideas were inspired and conveyed to me by two people and one group.  One of the people, Teilhard de Chardin, died when I was 7 years old and before I ever heard of him; the other, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was a living saint whom I read about and then studied under; and the group was the Ecumenical Institute (EI), and it’s secular arm, the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA).

Rob, my older brother and only sibling, introduced Teilhard to me in the summer of 1966 after I graduated from high school.  We had a summer job together in Winfield, Kansas shoveling grain during the wheat harvest.  When not working we would often go to the local library, where he showed me Teilhard’s book, The Phenonmenon of Man.  I have no idea how the little Winfield library happened to have that book (which was first published in English just a few years earlier).  But it did.   The book was densely written for paleontologists, biologists and other scientists, and was not easy to read.  But the ideas had a huge effect on me so I kept reading it here and there for quite a while.

Rob also introduced me to the EI / ICA a couple of years later, during my visits to see him in Chicago where he was interning with them.   And in 1970, after returning from six memorable months in Europe, my closest friends, John and Bev, introduced me to Transcendental Meditation and to Maharishi’s teaching.

So here is a summary of these three great and widely influential ideas that together combine in me to guide what I want most to do and be.  Continue reading ‘A Long Affair with Three Big Ideas about Collective Consciousness’

Two Remedies for Bad Thinking and other Bad Habits

Bad thinking is usually due to bad habits rather than to lack of ability.

This includes bad habits such as acting without thinking; accepting a “fact” or idea without independent verification; and taking in  news, ideas and interpretations only from sources with a  perspective that reinforces your own,  rather than differing from your perspectives or questioning them.

Such bad habits are correctable, and that’s encouraging.  However, if habits are deeply engrained they are hard to change.  Any habit can only weaken and leave if there is a will – motivated by an internal desire.

For deeply engrained habits, even a strong motivation isn’t enough for change.  A deeply engrained habit is no longer a habit, but an internal imperative which must be obeyed and can’t be ignored.  Such habits can become essential parts of individual and group identity.

There is hope, though, from at least two approaches.  Both of these approaches are methods to train the mind and produce clearer, broader thinking.

The first method is:  Regular exposure to other people one can respect, who have different ideas and behaviors, which they express and model well.  Having a motivation and an opportunity for exposure to new and different ideas and behaviors can begin to change even long-held habits of thinking.

The second method is less familiar to most people:  If people take up the regular habit of transcending – experiencing the silent, unbounded source of their own mind and being, then  life-restricting habits can begin to weaken.   There is plenty of evidence over the last several thousand years that this can actually work.  More recently, neurological, physiological, and other sociological evidence supports this approach.

Combine these two remedies – regular transcending and regular exposure to honest people with different perspectives – and even the most intractable bad habits will begin to loosen.

Radical Middle

True, sustainable social transformation will never occur by one side, party, perspective defeating and dominating the others.

Sustainable social transformation will occur when people and groups with different perspectives learn to listen to each other and dialogue.

Dialogue is not about compromise that leads to the mediocre middle.

It is about constructively engaging with the “other” to come up with truly better solutions.  That is not mediocrity.  It is radical and creative.

Arriving at better solutions includes a creative process of agreeing on reasonable solutions, giving those solutions a legitimate chance, and evaluating the effects based on evidence that can be accepted by a majority of both sides.

A solution with a reasonable chance of success that will be supported by a significant majority of the population is always going to be better than a solution bitterly opposed by significant factions.  And a widely accepted solution will always be better than a situation of stalemate where no meaningful solutions can ever be given enough of a chance to succeed.

If we’re all heading for the precipice together, then we need to take action together; and that means that we have to figure out a way to agree very, very soon.

In my case, I believe especially strongly in progressive ideas and solutions.   On the other hand, there are conservative thinkers whom I respect; and I believe that conservative ideas and solutions have value and need to be seriously considered in coming up with any solution.

The Whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

However, I only accept ideas and solutions that I feel have been formulated to help all of us, and not just to benefit 50%, 10%, or 1%.

I am committed to do all I can to rid our society of anti-democratic rhetoric and unrestricted funding of media manipulations and outright lies.   So I look for progressives, conservatives, and any others who are equally committed to that goal.  It is definitely a goal that can be supported by all who love our whole community.

Changing the way elections and media influence are funded is critical.  Yet, even when that happens, we will still need to learn how to constructively think and make decisions together.   Making progress on one front will support progress on the other.

Stories entrance and entrain us

Recent research from Princeton finds confirmation in the brain of what we already experience:   Stories align minds.   In the research listener’s brain patterns closely mirrored the story teller’s brain patterns, and the strength of the mirroring correlated highly with the respondent’s ability to retell the tale.

Comments:

People who tell captivating stories win more often than people who use even the best logical arguments.

But there has to be a minimum level of receptivity.  Some stories are calculated to block receptivity to stories that are considered to enhance the enemy‘s positions.

And there are also stories designed to break down barriers to receptivity.


Expansion of choices reduces diversity???

I just read an article from The Nation, by Colin Robinson (via Alternet.com):

How Amazon Kills Books and Makes Us Stupid

In summary, Amazon’s dominance of the book market and their intense drive to reduce the costs of books are having these effects:

  • Drastically reducing the number of independent book sellers.
  • Reducing the income of publishers, and especially authors.
  • Making it more and more difficult for authors to produce well-crafted and thoroughly researched books.
  • And reducing cultural diversity by overwhelming customers with choices.

This last point is the most surprising – and sounds the most paradoxical.  How could more diversity of choice reduce cultural diversity?

Embedded in the middle of the article is this explanation:

According to industry statisticians Bowker, just over 172,000 titles were released in 2005. Last year “traditional” output had risen to 288,000 titles, a significant enough increase by itself. But adding what Bowker describes as “self-published” and “micro-niche” books, the total inflates to a staggering 1 million new titles in just twelve months.

“Many would argue that the efflorescence of new publishing that Amazon has encouraged can only be a good thing, that it enriches cultural diversity and expands choice.

“But that picture is not so clear: a number of studies have shown that when people are offered a narrower range of options, their selections are likely to be more diverse than if they are presented with a number of choices so vast as to be overwhelming. In this situation people often respond by retreating into the security of what they already know.

“As Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, explains, ‘When the choice set is larger, people tend to make worse choices. They choose on the basis of what’s easiest to evaluate, rather than what’s important to evaluatethe safe, highly marketed option usually comes out on top.’

Actually, this phenomenon isn’t really the fault of Amazon, but is rather part of the effect of making it easier and cheaper for individuals to create their own content, i.e., to self-publish.   It’s of course not just happening in the world of books, but in all manner of media and content, including newspapers, reporting, editorials, and reviews, film, video, and photography, music, etc..

This is an incredible expansion in creativity and expression; and at the same time, this expansion has clear effects of creating echo-chambers where we, “the masses” who are now “personalized” are clumping together like never before and having less and less thoughtful exposure to ideas beyond those that we ‘naturally’ prefer and seek out.

So these are not new reflections.

But still, what are the answers?   How can we break through this paradox of explosions of expressions and choices that somehow create an implosion of diversity and dialogue?  (Actually, it’s not an implosion of diversity, as much as an explosion into huge and small fragments that appear to have not much to do with each other.)

Somehow the “answers” will have to be the creation of common experiences that invite curiosity, openness, and simple kindness.   Curiosity mixed with kindness can bridge differences, without eliminating differences.

What kind of experiences would these be?

As a designer of social technology, I can only think that, among other things, these experiences have to include radically new ways  a) to manage attention overload without killing serendipity, and b) to discover “content” that is rewarding – even deeply fulfilling – without relying on naturally clumping algorithms like “Show me more like this one” — or “Show me – books, movies, ideas, etc – that other people like who like the same kinds of stuff I like.

Honestly, with algorithms like that, what can you expect other than bigger and bigger clumps?

Insight into Group Consciousness

The Celestine Prophecy (Redfield, 1996) was not a great work of literature, but it contained many good insights (and more than 9).

In 2000 I copied the description below of a group process based on intuitively sensing the flow of energy in a group conversation.   You could also say it’s based on extremely fluid listening, and non-attachment – which are not easy to come by in groups, but which can make any group process much more effective.

The question is, how can this level of group consciousness be developed?  A simple answer is that it can if there is a great deal of motivation on the part of group members, and if at least some of the members can model the method and help coach the others.

Is this really a “method” – or actually a level of collective consciousness that many groups experience, regardless of the particular method or process used?   Which methods are especially good at culturing listening and dropping ego-attachments?

(Excerpt follows from the Celestine Prophecy pp. 214 – 215 – this book is available for “Search Inside” on Amazon)  Continue reading ‘Insight into Group Consciousness’

Global Warming is better explained as Climate Chaos

Jokes about record snow falls here and there – e.g. where I live – are making the rounds to poke holes in “Global Warming” ideas.    And so are more scientifically-based clarifications that show that global warming is no joke.   A problem is, though, that the people laughing at the jokes may not be likely to see or be interested in the clarifications.

Here is one of the best written and substantiated clarifications that appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post:

Washington’s snowstorms, brought to you by global warming.
By Bill McKibben, Sunday February 14, 2010

An excerpt:

“In most places, winter is clearly growing shorter and less intense. …But rising temperature is only one effect of climate change.  Probably more crucially, warmer air holds more water vapor than cod air does.  The increased evaporation from land and sea leads to more drought but also to more precipitation…  The numbers aren’t trivial – global warming has added 4 percent more moisture to the atmosphere since 1970.  That means the number of ‘extreme events’ such as downpours and floods has grown steadily; the most intense storms have increased by 20 percent across the United States in the past century.

“So here’s the thing:  despite global warming, it still gets cold enough to snow in the middle of winter… And the chances of what are technically called ‘big honking dumps’ have increased.”

As a scientific frame for what is happening, “global warming” is very accurate.  But as a frame that can quickly get the point across, “Climate Chaos” may be more to the point — the point being that global warming causes a whole range of climate disruptions on a global scale that can be not only annoying but dangerous to many.

Thank Heaven for Left Right and Center

Who else can we thank?

Another way of saying it:

God is not on the Left, Right, or Center.

I know that is blasphemy to millions. But they seem to be worshiping tribal gods. Tribal gods are OK, but brittle.

Thank God, or the creative nature of the universe, that we are not all on the right, or all on the left, or all in the center. We are only all human, and only all earthlings.

If we were all on the right, or left, we would certainly hurtle over the cliff of our choosing, even faster than we’re now approaching the cliff that no one is choosing.

If we were all in the center, we would still be getting closer and closer to the non-chosen cliff, because there is too much investment in the status quo, and too little appetite for change.

But we’re not all in one place, one ideology, one proclivity, one style, one perspective.

That’s not a design flaw; that IS the design.

Even though that’s the design, we rail against it.

Even though, by our nature, we’re not all of one perspective, we’re in huge trouble now because enough of us haven’t waked up to realize that all our perspectives and peculiarities are needed to survive and thrive.  Or, that is, all are needed to be part of our on-going conversations, deliberations, adaptations, and innovations.

My heroes (dual gender) are those who have waked up to that, and who are able to speak well, and model well, in ways that are convincing to large segments of center, right, and left. Not just talking and inspiring (though those are important) but demonstrating – not as in protesting, but as in showing how.

What do Meta Networks Need?

(Continued from Basic Case for Meta Networks and Global Transformation)

Meta Networks are:

  • Decentralized networks of people, organizations and networks,
  • Bound together by shared goals, values, and experiences.

Meta networks are crucial for fixing global problems before they overwhelm us.

Meta networks need passionate, committed, and talented people, plus ideas, funding, and other resources.   But they also need methods and tools to make the individuals, organizations, and network as a whole more intelligent and effective.

Here are four types of methods and tools that meta networks need:

1.  Connecting people and organizations.

a.  Connecting people to people and organizations to obtain:

– Ideas, expertise and help (employees, partners, consultants, advisors, volunteers)

– Funding (investors, grants, donors)

– Inside Intelligence & Influence (related to potential customers, partners, investors, employees, and suppliers, and agencies, policy makers, communities, etc.)

Examples of tools:
Job, volunteer and consultant matching sites and databases; professional social network platforms for finding needed expertise and affiliations and obtaining trusted recommendations and referrals (e.g., LinkedIn).

Examples of methods:
Network weaving and social network analysis.

b. Connecting people to content
(to obtain news, ideas, opinions, research, experiences, knowledge)

Examples – Generic and specialized Internet search engines, content management and knowledge sharing applications and portals.

2. Sources for Reputation, Fact-checking, Due-Diligence.
(Supports other needs, e.g., connecting people, decision-making, etc.)

Examples:  Generic Internet search engines; professional social network platforms for checking professional experience and getting personally trusted insights and recommendations; reputation sites (most are not very mature yet).

3. Messaging campaigns to spread awareness and actions
(e.g., awareness and actions related to voting, contacting policy makers, talking to neighbors, donating, buying or boycotting)

Examples:  Social media sites and tools (Facebook, Twitter, messaging tools, etc.)

4. Collective Thinking and Action (big category!)

a)  Removing barriers to communication and collaboration.
(Dialogue, listening, finding common ground, consensus-building, conflict transformation, use of stories, symbols and rituals, collective consciousness effects)

b) Identifying, understanding and solving problems
(Collecting facts and perspectives from all relevant sources; Innovating (exploring/scanning/brainstorming); Integrating perspectives to reach consensus/decision on best strategies and tactics; Prediction; Deliberation and planning (evaluating ideas from different perspectives, consensus building); and Getting commitments for action.)

c) Collaborative Action – requiring complex coordination of actions by many people and organizations.

Examples of a, b, & c:   Online and in-person methods and tools for dialogue, deliberation, and collaboration.   For a partial list see NCDD’s Framework for Dialogue and Deliberation.

What is left out of this list?  Or what would you change?

Obama’s Radical Middle Messages

Barack Obama is a Radical Centrist, preaching and teaching dialogue, finding common ground, and listening and speaking “fair-minded words” with an open heart and an open mind.   These themes appear in all of his speeches on controversial issues, which are about the only issues he speaks about.   Controversy is everywhere, paralyzing us, provoking verbal hostilities and worse, wasting our time, energies and resources and producing ineffective solutions that seem to only get us into deeper troubles.

Here are some excerpts from two of his recent speeches.

From his May 17 speech at Notre Dame in which he focused on abortion:

About dealing with conflict:

“Understand – I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. No matter how much we may want to fudge it – indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory – the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.”

About finding common ground:

“So let’s work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term.”

From his June 4 Cairo speech to Muslims around the world:  Continue reading ‘Obama’s Radical Middle Messages’

Dialogue and the Radical Middle

Dialogue is radical.  It’s not just “love your enemy;” it’s actually talking to them.  Loving someone is nice and abstract, and easy to do especially from a distance (including a morally superior distance).

Dialogue is much more challenging since it involves not only talking, but also listening, respecting, and suspending (stepping back from your own position — and ego — in order to listen more clearly).

The idea of the Radical Middle, or Radical Center, is closely related to “bi-partisanship.”  It doesn’t mean joining the mushy Center.  You can keep your ideas and your perspectives, but you have to take the radical step of actually listening to other perspectives and looking for solutions together that can take many views, needs, and experiences into account.

Dialogue and the Radical Middle are examples of collective intelligence (combining many facts and perspectives) that take a giant step towards collective consciousness.

(written 5/20/2009)

Disagreement is a puzzle, not a problem

Disagreement is a puzzle, not a problem.

Disagreement is an opportunity to learn, to create a greater whole.

The problem is hostility.

Arrogance, ridicule, self-righteousness, disrespect, spurious and misleading arguments are all forms of hostility – non-physical violence.

The good news is that many of us who disagree on important things, still agree that hostility is a mistake: We don’t have to defend ourselves from each other. We are only defending ourselves from the hostility we fear coming from others.  

Yet,  many also attack to gain control, or to defend, pre-emptively.

When the dominant paradigm (social rule) is to gain control and defend, then forget learning, forget creating a greater whole, ultimately, forget keeping the Earth alive.  Fortunately, at least, this is becoming more obvious.  Competing desires to gain control is finally becoming a threat to everyone.

OK, so now the problem is that while many of us agree that we keep making the same mistakes, we’re still having trouble agreeing on common solutions.  

Learning to listen, and talk without defenses, has become a very tricky thing !  This is what we have to work on.

How Bohmian Dialogue makes use of 2300 Year Old Ideas

I’m now reading two books.  One was written ten years ago and its ideas are still influential and appreciated among tens of thousands of people.   The other was written at least 2300 years ago, and its ideas are influential and appreciated among hundreds of millions of people.

I recently discovered the same point made in both books.  One is about the practice of Dialogue in groups.  The other is about the practice of Yoga for achieving a “settled mind.”

I’m sure there are many more points in common, but here are the two points that just stood out for me as the same:  Continue reading ‘How Bohmian Dialogue makes use of 2300 Year Old Ideas’

Creating wholeness in collaboration.

(Continued from here.)

Feelings are most primal, and hardest to ignore.

They are powerful triggers to action, and also trigger cycles of thinking, interpretation and meaning.  The “most important facts” then become dominated by whatever triggered the most powerful feelings.

Interpretations are heavily influenced by feelings because feelings focus and filter thinking to derive interpretations.  The interpretations also loop back to explain or justify the feelings, and to justify the actions that the person has taken or wants to take.

Feelings are important and have to be recognized and understood.  But feelings shouldn’t dominate thinking and action.

The only way to break the dominance of feelings is to step back and see them in the larger context of a group of people who have different feelings and interpretations about the same set of circumstances – and whose help is needed to create solutions..

The dialogue process intentionally trains participants to both listen to others, and to suspend judgment in order to make listening possible.   When people stay with the process long enough to get the hang of it, the process can present to everyone a bigger whole that no one person was seeing before.

The focused-conversation method has a similar result by taking the whole group through a process of collecting facts, expressing (and listening to) feelings, and stating (and listening to) interpretations before attempting to reach a decision together.   They get to see not only how other people feel about the situation, but also how they are all coming up with different interpretations based on different experiences and knowledge.

David Bohm’s On Dialogue especially explains how the evolution of individual consciousness is closely related and essential to development of collective consciousness. For example, he relates the ability to suspend and step back from ones own feelings and biases to the process of meditation.  Both dialogue and meditation involve a method of suspension (drawing back) to help individuals expand their awareness to greater wholes than they were previously capable of understanding.  The dialogue process trains individuals to think in more expanded ways by suspending personal judgments and getting a taste of the greater whole that comes from multiple perspectives.

Other references:

One of the best books on the practice of dialogue, by William Isaacs.

A pdf and book describing the Focused Conversation method, by Brian Stanfield and ICA Associates.

The Structure of Collaboration

I recently discovered the similarity between two extremely powerful collaborative methods, focused conversation, and dialogue.   It’s not a surprising discovery, and obvious to anyone who has studied or used them both.   But I was very glad to see the connection, which is not just a connection between these two methods, but a deeper structure that has to be brought to the surface for any collaborative method to work.

The common principle is that a complete (holistic) understanding of any situation needs to be looked at through multiple perspectives; and there are at least three extremely basic ways of thinking that affect any perspective.

Through the lens of a focused conversation, the most basic needed perspectives are:

–        Objective (collecting the facts),

–        Reflective (understanding feelings),

–        Interpretative (deriving meaning), and

–        Decisional (taking action).

Through the lens of dialogue, these are:

–        Feeling,

–        Meaning (which combines the concepts of ‘objective’ and ‘interpretive’), and

–        Power (action).

The understanding in both systems is that different people, or the same people at different times, tend to think and express themselves using mainly one of these different ways of thinking.  When people talk to each other, one-to-one or in groups, people often get confused, frustrated, and angry because the other people are using entirely different ways of thinking to express themselves.  From any one person’s perspective, this looks like “You just don’t get it!” or ‘You’re completely ignoring the most important point!”

A collaborative method has to make people aware that there are indeed different ways of looking at any issue, and that all of these ways are necessary in order to come up with a solution that will actually work.  This is because only then will a whole picture of the situation be incorporated into the solution; and also because only then can everyone understand and get behind a common solution.

This  post continues these thoughts:

Creating Wholeness in Collaboration.

Meta Networks and Global Transformation

In  a great piece written in mid 2007, Paul Hawken reminded us that there is a global meta network (he didn’t use that term) of people and organizations who care deeply about the planet and are working to save it.

He called it the planet’s immune system, now emerging to help us fend off multiple pathologies and terrible threats.

He also said:

  • It’s a decentralized network, not an organization.
  • There is no single hub. (That is, it’s a multi-centered network.)

  • It is not a conventional “movement” where everyone recognizes the same leaders and identical ideologies.

  • “People inside the movement can also underestimate it, basing their judgment on only the organizations they are linked to, even though their networks can only encompass a fraction of the whole. “

This last point is important.  It means that the network already exists, but it’s not yet fully accessible and usable.   Making the network more self-aware and usable is now what is needed, as described more below.

Immune systems are adaptive networks.

Brains are also adaptive networks, which is why many others have also called our interconnected global networks a “global brain.”   Hawken was especially pointing to the part of the global brain that reacts to rigidity, fragmentation, and decay – including abuses of power and environmental threats.

But this same network — people who care about the vitality and prosperity of the whole Earth — is more than just an immune system.  It doesn’t just fight things (disease and injustice, etc.).  It also creates knowledge, tools, and opportunities for growth and fulfillment of individuals, organizations, societies, and (yes) life on earth.

It is really a global network of transformation.

Except, it is not quite all wired up yet.

So, what does a globally intelligent Meta Network need to more fully wake up?

It needs at least these things, which are already available in some form or another, yet still developing:

1. Methods and tools for getting knowledge, talent, and capital to the right people and organizations at the right time.

This includes:

a. Communication tools and social media

We are now swimming in these, and constantly inventing more.

b. Tools for intelligently filtering messages and requests.

This includes tools for reputation, due-diligence, and brokering trust.  Baby tools for these functions now exist.  They need to be much more intelligent and pervasive.

c. Social networking platforms for sharing social capital and trusted referrals

The right tool will need to both enable continuously updated, searchable user profiles and searching the “social graph” for trusted referrals.

d. Network Weaving

Network weaving, and training for network weavers, can help make networks ‘smarter.’ Smart networks have shorter and stronger connection paths that are most useful to network members.   This means that searches will result in more relevant results, and it will be easier to find trusted and influential introductions.  In a smarter network the overall trust will also be higher and knowledge and ideas will flow more quickly to those who need them.

2. Collaboration methods, and the training & experience needed to use them.

E.g., methods such as Dialogue, Appreciative Inquiry, TRIZ, ToP (technologies of participation) and forty or so other especially useful ones.   This is crucial because echo chambers (talking to ourselves) and the inability to communicate effectively (creatively rather than destructively) are killing us.

But this is also especially challenging.  How do we get this, the ability to think productively together, to scale, to become truly pervasive?

To get people to think more constructively together requires not only good methods and training, but also a shift in the consciousness of individuals, for example, developing a level of consciousness that is bigger than their own egos.   To be sure, there are techniques and training for that as well.   Above all, we will need ideology-free techniques as well as traditional techniques preferred by different groups.   However, techniques that help people think together with others who have different backgrounds and opinions can also help bring about a shift in consciousness towards greater openness.  Openness is a great antidote to the bad effects of small egos focused on oneself or a single group.  For more on the connection between collaboration and consciousness see David Bohm’s On Dialogue.  His work is brilliant and his methods are solid; but unfortunately he doesn’t tell us how to make the methods scale.

How do we bring this about? Continue reading ‘Meta Networks and Global Transformation’

Warm Winter Day

Warm Winter day. Through leafless trees I can see South Mountain. Warplanes pounding.

This morning I discovered these three things by walking into my living room – from the air, through the window, and from the monitor on my desk open to the Washington Post.

Peaceful morning in Pleasant Valley.   Death in Gaza.

In Gaza, such a convoluted knot of mutual hatreds, vying to see who can be more passionate, and more senseless.

Reduce the heat!  Or we fry in our own butter.   David Bohm:  Reduce the heat.  Suspend assumptions.  Allow awareness of what is in common.


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