This morning I was flipping through the book Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace, and came across this great list of principles for how to transcend ego and bring a group to greatness via collaborative thinking. The following passage is from an excerpt titled Thinking together without ego: Collective intelligence as an evolutionary catalyst, by Craig Hamilton and Claire Zammit.
Principles of Evolutionary Culture
1. A Commitment to the Greater Good: All of the individuals in the group must be genuinely committed to discovering and/or achieving the best possible outcome for the whole. Individual or departmental agendas must be set aside. Bringing the group to this high level of commitment may take considerable preparation, but is most easily achieved when all of those involved are on board with the organization’s greater mission, and when there is a trust already established in the leadership’s commitment to fairness.
2. A Commitment to Wholehearted Engagement: Each group member must be committed to fully participate in all group meetings. This means bringing one’s full attention to the matter at hand, leaving all personal concerns at the door. By listening carefully to the contributions of others and putting their own best thinking into the mix, each member contributes to the building of a larger vessel which can carry the group to unforeseen heights of insight.
3. A Culture of Self-Responsibility: All group members must feel personally responsible for the success of the group. Each must feel on a visceral level that the success of the group in achieving its outcomes rests on her shoulders alone. Given our natural tendency to defer responsibility, cultivating this level of ultimate personal responsibility among members of any group is a formidable task. One-on-one work with group members outside the group setting is usually necessary.
4. A Suspension of Assumptions: For the duration of the gathering, group members suspend everything they think they know in order to make room for new insights and understandings to emerge. Practicing what is known in Zen as a “beginner’s mind,” they cultivate an inner and outer environment of profound receptivity and openness, which turns out to be fertile soil for leaps in creativity.
5. Culture of Deep Listening: Group members aspire to listen to one another from a place deeper than intellect. They tune their ears to listen for the deepest threads and the emerging glimmers of novelty in each other’s contributions, and, through their responses, they highlight and draw out those elements to make them transparent to the group.
6. A Commitment to Authenticity: Everyone in the group must be committed to speaking their mind and heart. This is built on the recognition that in order to make the best decision, the group needs everyone’s data. To support this commitment, there must be an explicit agreement within the group that no point of view – no matter how challenging to either the leadership or to the group’s assumptions – will be ridiculed or dismissed without genuine, respectful consideration.
7. A Culture of Risk-Taking: Nothing takes us to the edge of evolution faster than taking meaningful risks. This means speaking on an intuition when we’re not sure we have the words to give voice to it. Or, responding to a gut feeling that something isn’t right, but doing so vulnerably, realizing that it might be oneself that’s not right. It also means being willing to step into new ways of being, even if they feel frightening and unfamiliar. The more risk we are each willing to take, the more profound will be the outcome.
8. A Culture of Empowered Vulnerability: Leading by example, the leadership demonstrates that it is okay to be vulnerable, to take the risk to expose one’s ignorance and uncertainty. The group sees that such vulnerability is actually a position of strength and power because it shows a courageous willingness to step into the most insecure places. This leads to a healthy culture of non-avoidance that is the best inoculation against “groupthink.”
9. A Culture of Constant Resolution: The group strives to maintain a clear and harmonious field of interaction between all participants. This means always striving to clear up any interpersonal tension as soon as possible, so as to build a container of deep harmony and trust among everyone. It is about leaving each interaction “without a trace.” This can sometimes require additional processing outside the group meetings in order to keep group time most efficient.
10. A Commitment to Grow and Evolve: In order for the group to consistently function at an optimal level, all individuals must be committed to staying on their own “evolving edge,” by seeking healthy feedback and taking on new challenges outside their comfort zone. When all of the individuals in a group are actively and enthusiastically engaged in their own evolution, their collective spirit of boundary-breaking infuses the group with vitality and organically keeps the group on its own evolving edge.