237 Reasons To Believe In Community


I’m up in the sky, on my way to hang with some of my best friends in the world, celebrating the birthday of my long time friend Mike McCarthy.

Considering half the 24 men who are coming in are all professional facilitators, should be a riot of an awesome weekend in the mountains together.

Here’s what’s on my mind: Whatever the problem, community is the answer.

Why is this?

For one, the experience of community, leverages the collective potential that exists in a group.

Next week, we have 237 change agents, from 16 countries, coming together for our 3-day Online xchange Experience immersion training.

How can we design and facilitate transformational gatherings? That’s the focus.

At the heart of our work is an insatiable curiosity around what it is that brings out the best, in groups, meetings, organizations and communities, when we come together – to learn, to create, to solve.

And then sharing, everything we possibly can, with those who are interested enough, to become students of ours.
Collective potential, and curiosity around it, is baked into the center of it all.

A common question we hear: what’s the difference between a training that focuses on collective potential, and individual potential?

It’s wildly different. And certainly more complex.

To start, collective potential (or, we could interchangeably say, collective intelligence) does not equal the sum of the individual parts of a group. It’s a multiplier. Research has measured this.

To go a bit deeper, collective potential invokes the properties of a system.

A living system in our case.

While individuals are technically also considered a living system, most training and learning environments that fixate on individuals, while potentially enlivening, can remain entirely void of the interconnected world that we live and work in.

Just like gravity, these properties of a living system are working, even if we aren’t aware of them.

And once we start to understand them… we can tap into something extraordinary, which has the wonderful benefit of inviting a larger impact than if we don’t operate at this level.

For example… next time you walk through the woods (a living system, just like a group of people), imagine for a moment that you were to build a barrier.

Maybe a large wall, or a large impenetrable fence.

Do you know what would eventually happen to the natural ecosystem around this impenetrable barrier?

It would start to collapse.

Cross-pollination would stop. Sharing of information and energy across diverse species would stop.

Death.

This is synonymous to what happens in groups, when we exert so much control, that we stifle the freedom for information and energy to flow.

There’s a principle, called “bounded instability,” that this example brings to life.

Living systems have something that bonds them, yet they also have the ability to adapt and evolve.

In human systems, understanding that shared identity, which arises when we explore questions like:

Why are we important? Who are we? How will we treat each other? What are our strengths and lessons learned?

These questions invite us to find cohesion in our identity. Even if the work we do, the business we are in, is required to evolve in significant ways.

Bounded instability.

There are many other principles, like the ability of a living system to self-organize.

Last time you were driving on the highway, maybe surrounded by a handful of other vehicles.

Why didn’t you run into each other?

Was it because you all gathered the day before, and put together a strategic plan?

Was it because you had a hierarchy clearly labeled on a bumper sticker?

Was one of you clearly the boss of the other cars?

Probably not…

It’s the same reason why the internet somehow magically operates, without a “CEO,” or some committee making decisions on behalf of the collective.

Complex systems can self-organize.

Next time you are in the woods, ask the dirt… “who’s the high ranking species around here?” If you listen, you’ll hear the leaves laughing.
Yes, hierarchy, and clarity of roles and accountability all have a relevant place.

But when we are talking about how we’ll inspire the best of our generosity, creativity, and kindness… we are looking for “natural hierarchy” to arise.

There are ways to design and facilitate group interactions that do exactly this.

The best of humanity comes forward, when we design and facilitate the right conditions, not through command, control or coercion, but because it’s what we are capable of, naturally.

Okay, that’s all for now…
One more thing. I’m really genuinely curious.
This email is quite a nuanced, nerdy exploration of some concepts that I’m pretty sure will turn away a good number of subscribers.

What I want to know is this: Are you somebody who likes this email? Does this resonate with you or energize you?

If yes, drop me a note, I read everything. I’d love to know who you are, how you and I are connected, and what makes you tick, considering you made it all the way to the end of this rambling stream of thought.

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