Shift Happens!

Commenting on my entry about The emergence of CI, an online experiment, Jay Cross wrote in his blog:
> I’m interested more in group mind than individual consciousness, but I figure they’re both complex systems, why not see how one viewpoint cross-fertilizes the other.
I think of consciousness as a continually emergent quality of the self, individual or collective, by which it recognizes itself and its relationship to other selves.
An explorer of collective intelligence–defined as the capacity of communities to evolve towards higher order integration and performance through collaboration and innovation–I became curious of the tipping point, the transition from a collection of intelligences to collective intelligences. Jay’s entry gave more fuel to that exploration. He wrote:
> George Por lit my fuse this morning. Using his blog entry as a starting point, I let whatever come to mind guide my thinking.
I guess, that’s how our blog connections work most of the time; one person’s entries become triggers of free associations in another person’s mind and blog, creating a rich soil of loosely linked thoughts in the noosphere, at the tune of probably millions of new entries every day. That kind of connections occurs in loose networks or communities of learners that I differentiate from communities that learn.
In the slide of John Seely Brown that Jay posted in his blog (see below) JSB is talking about a shift from tools supporting individuals to tools supporting relationships.

The shift that I try to understand and promote is a more radical one that what JSB is referring to. I’m focusing on tha nature, enablers and obstacles of a qualitative jump from a collection of intelligences to a collective intelligence that transcends and includes the individual minds, from a community of learners to a community that learns, which transcends and includes the intelligence of its members.

I’ve been theorizing about the tipping point of that transition for many years but without successful hands-on experiences I couldn’t get very far. In fact, understanding ad supporting that tipping point has been a big part of the motivation behind why I became a facilitator of virtual communities. All my efforts to help communities to reach that tipping point had very limited impact. From a hindsight, I can see that in the 80’s and the 90’s the time was just not ripe for that. Is it different now? I’m not sure but ready to give one more try with the online experiment.
Whether it will succeed it or not, will depend whether it will attract players more fascinated with the unknown potential of the collective mind than the meandering of their own, people with a passion for contributing to something greater than themselves, bloggers who want to break some new ground from which the surprising capabilities of a truly collective intelligence can emerge.
Thank you, Jay for the opportunity that your entry gave me to articulate a bit more clearly my intent. Maybe that’s how collective intelligence emerges: we start giving sustained attention to one another’s highest aspirations and discovering the common patterns that pull us into a future worth collaborating for.

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5 Responses to Shift Happens!

  1. Euan says:

    Just a thought George – how does CI siffer from groupthink?


  2. George Por says:

    Euan, here are a couple of definitions of groupthink on the Web:
    • An undesirable condition in which all members of a group (e.g. a project team) begin to think alike or pretend to think alike. No members are then willing to raise objections or concerns about a project even though they are legitimate and based on hard data.
    • a group process in which group members work so hard to achieve unanimous agreement that they fail to consider realistically the various alternative courses of action available to them
    • the tendency of group discussion to assimilate opinions.
    • is ‘a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ striving for unanimity overrides their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action’ (Janis, 1972).
    • a dysfunction in which some group members attempt to preserve group harmony by suppressing the voicing of dissenting opinion
    • The forces that tend to suppress or resist divergent thinking when a group is working to accomplish a specific task within a limited period of time.
    • The faulty decision-making processes that may occur in groups. (p.610)
    • decision making by a group (especially in a manner that discourages creativity or individual responsibility)
    My definition of CI is a distributed capacity of communities to evolve towards higher order integration and performance through collaboration and innovation.
    I hope this helps but if I missed something about your question, let me know.


  3. Jay Cross says:

    Okay, George, so you’re looking for a phase change, the creation of something new & different.
    The day before commenting on your blog, I wrote:
    Emergence is the key characteristic of complex systems. It is the process by which simple entities self-organize to form something more complex. Emergence is also what happened to that “utopian dream” of e-learning on the way to the future. Simple, old e-learning has combined with bottom-up self-organizing systems, network effects and today’s environment to morph into emergent learning.
    Emergent learning implies adaptation to the environment, timeliness, flexibility and space for co-creation. It is the future. We haven’t figured it out yet. Or, from the perspective of complexity science, it hasn’t figured itself out yet.
    Now, I realize that this is like the case of the dog that got on the bus: “What the fuck do I do now?” Back to my screed on emergent learning:
    In their book, “It’s Alive,” management theorists Stan Davis and Christopher Meyer make a compelling case that business entities are living, complex systems. Many nodes—brains—come together to form something new—the corporate body. As my friend David Grebow says, it even has a Corporate IQ and, according to author David Batstone, a Corporate Soul.
    When I look back at your definition of Collective Intelligence: “the capacity of communities to evolve towards higher order integration and performance through collaboration and innovation,” I have a tough time figuring out when the tipping point has tipped, e.g. when the ice turns to water or when the performance is of such a higher order that an observer would say, “Boy, that’s really different.”
    Sorry for mixing metaphors and thought-lines. I do believe that meaningful discourse requires sufficient ambiguity for participants to create their own meaning of what’s presented. This ramble leaves enough white space for you to paint in your reactions, George.


  4. Emergent learning is figuring itself out

    Jay Cross wrote some truly thought-provoking comments on Shift Happens! > Okay, George, so you’re looking for a phase change,…


  5. How woukd we know, we reached tipping point?

    “A high level of threshold would be evidenced when such planetary indicators of balance and vitality can be observed as the increasing rate at which hunger, poverty, and violence are decreasing.”


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