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Tapping Collective Wisdom in Your Organization

Ten things to be mindful of...

1. People and organizations have within them the wisdom to successfully confront the challenges they're facing.

2. Group wisdom can’t simply be summoned on command, because it does not exist in the minds of the individuals who make up the organization. Collective intelligence/wisdom is emergent, it lies (mostly) dormant in the relational spaces between individuals.

3. Establishing relationships of trust and mutual respect is a prerequisite to evoking and accessing collective wisdom.

4. Collective wisdom is accessed, applied and refined through a process of structured conversations that begin by including all people involved. When voices are excluded the system suffers from missing intelligence that could be the difference between success and failure.

5. Dissent, when properly handled, is a force for good.

6. Knowing which process to use for which phase of the conversation is crucial to your success. Different kinds of conversations and different conversational structures or containers, i.e., Collaborative Conversations, World Cafe, Open Space, Future Search, Appreciative Inquiry, etc., are required for coping with the complexity of various kinds of predicaments, such as problems, messes or wicked messes.

7. Evoking collective wisdom and developing practical intelligence is hard work; it requires careful planning and facilitation, as well as willingness operate from a genuine space of “not knowing.” However the effort is worth it. Skillfully coordinated collaboration yields amazing results that people take ownership for.

8. The only competitive advantage that is truly sustainable is to work on making ALL of humanity better able to live well on Earth for as far into the future we can imagine.

9. The world comes alive with possibility when we can shift from seeing it as “a set of problems out there” to a “set of concerns we all share.”

10. People grow in the direction of the questions they ask. Don’t ask what’s wrong and who is to blame, ask: What's important here? and Who cares about these things? (This bit of wisdom is attributed to David Cooperrider, the originator of Appreciative Inquiry.)

What would you change or add to this list?

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