As I said, in a recent entry in the blog on communities of practice , I’ve been away for a while but not idle. In the last couple of months I made friends with an amazing array of very remarkable people. One of them is Peter Merry who has just finished writing his forthcoming book on Evolutionary Leadership. This entry is originated as one of my contributions to it.
The meaning and accelerating the emergence of CI
Having learned ways to quiet their mind and strengthen their health and vitality, aspiring evolutionary leaders are ready to dance with the energies of the â€œWe,â€ their teams, communities, the network of all of their relationships. They are ready to ask and see into powerful questions.
It is springtime in Europe and the air is gently sprayed with a scent of nature and human spirit coming alive again, after a long winter. It is a good time to look at generative questions, the seeds of transformation. Here’s one that I believe worth of our attention:
How can a group of individual intelligences become truly collective intelligence? How can they escape into a more complex and capable collective intelligence, without sacrificing their autonomy?
The act of â€œseeing intoâ€ a powerful question is like holding a baby in your arm, in a mix of awe, wonder, and curiosity. Can you hold the following question, in that way?
“How to accelerate the emergence of a higher collective intelligence in communities?”
I offer the this meaning of CI, as a starting point: â€œCollective intelligence is a distributed capacity of communities to evolve towards higher order integration and performance through collaboration and innovation.”
This is an updated version of the definition introduced in the chapter on “Liberating the Innovation Value of Communities of Practice” of the forthcoming textbook on Knowledge Economics: Emerging Principles, Practices and Policies.
CI sits in the lower left of Wilberâ€™s quadrants, the space of â€œwe,â€ culture, and inter-subjectivity. Wilber has been giving many good maps of it, even an excellent, 1-sentence summary: â€œThese shared values, perceptions, meanings, semantic habits, cultural practices, ethics, and so on, I simply refer to as culture, or the intersubjective patterns in consciousness.â€ A student of Wilber, Steve McIntosh, further specified the content of those inter-subjective cultural structures that we share with others in groups:
â€œWhile the content of subjective consciousness consists of feelings, thoughts, and decisions, the content of inter-subjective cultural structures consists of the substance of what is shared by subjective consciousnessâ€”the substance of information, meaning, and value.â€
Source: Intersubjective holons: dynamic systems of communication. An examination of the nature and behavior of the structures of consciousness and culture, by Steve McIntosh (.pdf)
In communities and organizations, besides those shared qualities, we also share a capacity to evolve and co-evolve with one another and with the surrounding social, technical, and market ecosystems.
CI is continually emerging from the connected conversations among members across ecosystems.
It’s occurring all the time, in many invisible ways. Let’s make one visible, by a simple, small-scale experiment, an open source, collaborative learning process that could give its participants a taste of that emergence. I imagine four steps:
â€¢ Discovering the seed conditions for the emergence of CI
â€¢ Sensing what hinders the evolution of CI
â€¢ Comparing notes
â€¢ Seeking patterns that connect actionable meaning
Step 1. Discovering the seed conditions for the emergence of CI
We start by asking a driving question, the answer to which would mean a significant increase in our capability to grow a more robust CI. For example, what are the pivotal conditions to the emergence of CI in communities?
We don’t have to build a definitive list of those conditions; we can get to the essentials through a collaborative inquiry, a sort of focused, learning conversation. For a starter of that conversation, I suggest to consider the following factors. For CI to emerge, there must be:
â€¢ Shared learning agenda expressed by the choices of the specific challenges or opportunities that the community wants to address in near term and longer term.
â€¢ Trusted relationships among members, which liberate the flows of knowledge and value creation.
â€¢ Frequent opportunities to participate in productive conversations through multiple channels of communication.
What else? What other conditions are also essential to raise our collective IQ?
Do you remember an episode in the life of any of the communities, to which you belong or belonged, when you have clearly felt the presence of a collective intelligence? What made that moment possible? Think about it, feel into it, and jot down your response.
Step 2. Sensing what hinders the evolution of CI
Evolutionary leaders need to intimately understand not only what fosters CI but also the factors that limit its growth.
Collective Intelligence doesn’t just evolve; it is co-arising with the evolution of four domains: the community’s social architecture, knowledge and learning ecosystem, economic engine, and technologies for collaboration and coordination. Each of these four domains brings to CI its own set of enablers and obstacles. They deserve more room for exploration than this blog entry to a time-bound online experiment in CI.
In my observations, CI, the potential of communities to evolve towards higher order integration and capabilities through collaboration and innovation, is very limited if:
â€¢ Ego and turf-battles waste the members’ attention and energy.
â€¢ Conversations are not connected and facilitated for emergence.
â€¢ The community’s knowledge ecosystem is week or poorly integrated, thus the cross-fertilization of ideas, information, and inspirations is sporadic and slow.
â€¢ The power of new technologies is not leveraged for balancing the constraints imposed cultural, geographic, hierarchical and other barriers.
That last point is frequently the consequence of the fact the structure and culture of the organization that hosts the communities prevent it from benefiting from today’s advanced and truly user-centered tools to process, portray, and communicate large chunks of information, and make meaning out from their constant, kaleidoscopic swirling.
Can you think of other essential obstacles to accelerating the emergence of CI that you observed in organizations? If yes, please make note of them.
Step 3. Comparing notes
I made my thoughts visible here, in spite knowing that they are incomplete and many of them half-baked. That’s just to say, don’t hesitate to share yours as they come up rather than wait for the perfect time to write a polished piece, which may never come. There are four ways in which you can contribute, according to your appetite to learn from and with this collaborative learning process. You can:
â€¢ Post your insights and questions in the Comments field below this post.
â€¢ Ask for and receive authoring rights, which would give you more freedom in formatting and categorizing your entries, also more visibility and connectivity.
â€¢ Become a Contributing Editor and shaper of the blog’s format and direction in its way to become a community blog
Step 4. Seeking patterns that connect actionable meaning
In the last step, all participants are invited to publish in the blog their perception of interesting patterns emerging from this blog conversation, and co-develop a shared map of CI boosters and roadblocks.
If some of you would step forward and offer to develop summaries of our learning or write a learning history, then the first cycle of our learning together could come to a closure with making its fruits available to the larger constellation of communities and networks working with the distinctions of CI, collective wisdom, and collective consciousness, as well as to all evolutionary agents, facilitators and leaders.
Timing, Flow, and Invitation
Giving attention for two weeks to each of the 4 steps, we may have some interesting results in two months.
What do you think of all of the above?
What is your appetite to participate in and shape this project?
Given the scope and portent of this inquiry, hosting and facilitating it could easily become a full-time occupation that none of us can afford. However, that wouldn’t be necessary if everyone interested in both the results and the process of these explorations, would offer some help according to his/her talents in community facilitation, summarizing, information architecting, information visualization, blog plug-ins and customization, etc. Consider this an invitation, and drop me a line to discuss how you can help.
Looking forward to hear from you, with great curiosity and anticipation.