Collective Wisdom

 photo credit: craig neal

photo credit: craig neal


A topic as rich as Collective Wisdom (CW) needs days to gather, ponder, dialogue with each other to troll the depth and breadth of the field. Much gratitude to Alan Briskin for giving us a substantial drink from a deep pool.

CW is not group think, but in fact, requires the individual to show up with a generosity of spirit and the presence of knowing each voice matters to create wholeness in a conversation or dialogue. A field of resonance and coherence is called into play that generates new capacities. We begin to understand that we exist because we belong to others, other beings, our surroundings, the planet, the universe. We exist because we belong to others....

Alan also spoke to Collective Stupidity, which applies to many situations, including our dated concepts of leadership/followership.

Groups are inclined toward stupidity the more they believe an answer lies outside themselves, including a belief that an answer lies with the leader. This form of ìprojectionî carries penalties whether the projection is positive or negative. We defer our own wisdom at great cost, becoming dependent on an outside figure for answers and increasingly divided in our opposition or loyalty.

The power of CW as Alan describes it is that we form a necklace of ideas that creates intention, coherence, and authentic engagement. What emerges is a capacity for foresight of what may be coming and insight of action to be taken, but from a place of wholeness that takes many perspectives and intelligences into account. Leadership becomes a quality that each is called to, as needed.

How might the wisdom, deep within each of us, be brought forward collectively to heal the planet? First by being aware that we belong to one another. When we come into alignment with this field, there is a deeper understanding of our connection with others, with life, and with a source of collective wisdom. This resonance creates an intelligence of presence and body awareness that calls into play our intuition and heart wisdom.

Next we can call this out in others. One of the call participants gave an example of holding someone in his thoughts, holding the person to her highest level of presence. He experienced that on some level that he didn't understand, she felt this and responded, even though no words had been exchanged. We've all had an experience like this. It's not manipulation; it's coherence.

The key messages of CW:


“We Are All Connected And Interdependent” Collective wisdom is a mindset and orientation, a turning toward the reality of interdependence, intricacy, and connectivity that is fundamental to living systems.


“Together We Can Know More” Collective wisdom takes us a step further from the “wisdom of crowds,” suggesting a latent wisdom exists in groups when authenticity, respect, and genuine engagement are promoted.

“Collective Wisdom Involves A Different Way Of Knowing” Collective wisdom involves intuition, sensation, and spirit. One of the foundational concepts of collective wisdom is that along with literal, linear, and rational ways of understanding, wisdom arises from a different kind of awareness. From this alternative awareness we are far more capable as individuals and in groups to recognize patterns, cultivate positive emotions, and perceive “pinch points” that might disrupt the movement toward new insights and creative resolution of conflicts.

“Safety for Reflection, Inquiry, and Deep Listening Are Essential For Developing Collective Wisdom” Central to collective wisdom is the ability for individuals and groups to hold in mind apparently opposing ideas, to resolve deep seated conflicts, and to arrive at new ideas that are nourished from within each individual and arise from the group itself. Safety for reflection, inquiry, and deep listening are examples of key conditions that foster the possibility for collective wisdom to arise.

“Digression To Stupidity” We cannot talk long about collective wisdom without acknowledging the long and painful history of aggression, war, and oppressive behavior in groups. Collective stupidity can be a result of individuals giving up or deferring their own internal sensing of what is right, true, and of lasting value. We do this for many reasons including fear of not really knowing our own thoughts and fear of others, especially those who have power over us. Inversely, collective wisdom is the power of generating answers from within, allowing individuals the space to make best use of their own reflections and the groupís capacity to make best use of its members.

“Changing How We Think About Leading and Following” Groups are inclined toward stupidity the more they believe an answer lies outside themselves, including a belief that an answer lies with the leader. This form of ìprojectionî carries penalties whether the projection is positive or negative. We defer our own wisdom at great cost, becoming dependent on an outside figure for answers and increasingly divided in our opposition or loyalty.

Inversely, when a leader brings attention to the challenges and complexity that are inherent to the circumstances a group faces together, group members can begin to bring their own unique talents and special qualities. The group as a whole can become more sophisticated as the reflective capacity deepens and new possibilities are surfaced. We return to the world with insights grounded in spirit and aided by perceiving a larger whole.