Appendix of "Life, Money and Illusion"
Tapping Our Collective Potential
While “two heads are better than one” is time-honoured knowledge,
there is a catch.
Co-intelligence requires open, trusting communication. This is
not always easy in a world flooded with audiovisual imagery of people
taking offense, expressing indignation and getting even. We learn by
example, and the television/video/DVD industry now produces a
large proportion of what many individuals presently experience as
human interaction. Under pressure, we draw rapidly on our mental
store of experience, and pseudo-experience, to form the thoughts we
express. One careless phrase can change an interaction from one of
trust to one of suspicion. From suspicion it is not far to the
frustration, anger and obstruction that can paralyze a group that
might, otherwise, have worked very effectively together.
Those who dare to look at the challenge of our times can be
particularly prone to suspicion. While a solid faith in human potential
might enable one to escape paralysis, fear is often not far from the
surface. We are in extreme danger, and suspicion is a complement to
the fight-or-flight response by which creatures have escaped danger
since long before humans appeared.
It is also the case that those of us who feel that the popular
legitimacy must change, have taken a bold step. Having taken issue
with the conventional legitimacy once, it is not as hard a second time
to challenge the emerging wisdom of our own organizations. Times of change are voltile.
Allies and Spies
At a conference I attended in 2005, the organizers had every participant
draw a slip of paper from a hat. We were told that, according to the note
we had each drawn, we were to play the role of either an ally or a spy.
We were then divided into groups and given a slightly contentious
topic related to the conference theme. We were asked to seek
consensus on the topic. If, during the discussion, anyone suspected
another participant of being a spy, a vote was initiated. If the majority
in that group believed the person to be guilty, he or she was barred
After the designated time, eight of the ten groups had censured
people. The facilitator then explained that all of the slips of paper from
the draw said “ally.” There were no “spies.”
Following the game, we were asked how we felt. Some of the
people who had made the accusations were embarrassed to find that
they had jumped to a false conclusion, based only on the suspicion
that there were spies among them. Those fearing accusation and
rejection found the exercise intimidating. Afraid they would be taken
for “spies,” they had censured themselves from expressing dissenting
views. Some of these mentioned feelings of shame at not having had
the courage to speak up. Many of those deemed as “spies,” even
though they were “allies,” expressed feelings of betrayal and rejection.
Because distrust had run rampant in both directions, many good ideas
were lost to the discussion. As a result of the exercise, participants
better understood that differing opinions do not necessarily mean
people should be distrusted.
It Is from the Clash of Differing Opinions
That the Light of Truth Shines
What follows is a procedure that a group can adopt to tap into its
greatest potential for its work together. “Consultation” is a recipe for
Assembling in a circle gives form to the assertion that everyone is
equal. In a circle, each person can hear everyone else directly and be
heard clearly in return.
Come together with confidence that there are solutions to
whatever issues you are going to discuss. Identifying the topics to be discussed in advance enables some premeditation that will help
prepare participants for the occasion. Before getting down to business,
it helps to take a few moments to focus attention on the spirit of the
gathering, the whole that is greater than all the individuals present.
Sometimes joining hands to connect the circle for a few moments of
silence is helpful. The mood of the meeting can be further guided by
expressing together the wish, silently or verbally, for guidance and
inspiration. While focusing on the synergetic potential of the group,
or whatever sense of a higher power participants hold, ask for help to
make the best possible decisions for the effectiveness of the group, for
the well-being of the next seven generations and for all life on Earth.
So met, the gathering is ready to proceed. The four techniques
below can guide discussion to more productive ends.
1 - When an idea leaves a person’s lips, it no longer belongs to the
individual but becomes the possession of the circle.
directed at the ideas and not at the people who happened to
introduce them. Ideas can be too important to carry the
baggage of individual personalities. Without this precaution,
good ideas are sometimes neglected for reasons that have no
relationship to the idea’s content.
Every effort should be made to avoid ridiculing anything that is
presented. Intimidation of any sort will discourage people from
offering divergent views, and the whole group will be poorer
for the loss of perspective. The precaution of separating ideas
from the people who voice them creates a safe environment
that encourages adherence to the second rule.
2 - Express everything that comes to heart or mind
on the topic
being discussed, even if it goes against what you feel yourself
or the mood of the meeting.
This is sometimes called brainstorming. The mind in free
association can come up with ideas that have not been
considered before. They are worth adding to the process. Even
ideas that seem to contradict one’s personal views should be
expressed. The same person might express both pros and cons
to an argument. If they do not, some perspective on the topic
might go unexpressed, depriving the group of the broadest
possible perspective from which to consider its plans. If the
topic of discussion has been researched elsewhere, an effort
should be made to include the research findings for
consideration as well.
3 - When conflicting views do arise, they are not to be avoided.
their confrontation can illuminate the truth of the matter. At
these times, however, it is most important to remember that it
is the ideas that are clashing and not the people. There is no
harm in this sort of confrontation if the group has been diligent
in detaching the ideas from the people; indeed, valuable
insights can be gained from the exchange. Recall the wish at
the commencement of the meeting for decisions to emerge
that are best for all involved. If this wish is sincere, participants
can watch the fireworks of the interaction in anticipation that
the truth of the matter will emerge when all is said and
4 - After all views have been heard and considered, if total
agreement is not reached but a significant majority feel they
have identified an appropriate course of action, dissenters are
asked to go along with the plan.
The purpose of this is to avoid confusion about the decision when it
is being implemented. If there is not total cooperation in implementing
a decision, and the action fails, it will not be clear whether the failure
resulted from a wrong decision or from the lack of cooperation. The
distinction is important for guiding future actions.
Since all perspectives are to be given fair consideration at the time
of the meeting, any shortcoming arising as the plan unfolds will be
viewed in the light of the divergent views. If everyone is trying to make
the plan work and it doesn’t, it will be clear that something is wrong
with the decision, and it can be reconsidered at another meeting.
Attitude can make all the difference. If cultivated, the following
attitudes can help the process become increasingly effective.
Listening with interest to all ideas expressed and
speaking the content of one’s own mind fully and with clarity.
Allowing and encouraging our better selves to dominate our weaknesses.
Allowing equal respect for all views whether they
come from our own lips or from someone else’s.
Removing the obstacle of one’s own importance and
thereby enabling serious consideration of what others say.
Hearing all that is being said before forming
Accepting the responsibility of looking for the truth by
expressing all that comes to mind related to the topic and in turn
listening to all opinions put forward.
Topics of sustainability require that
consideration go beyond the interests of the people present. Success
requires including the interests of other people, both those alive today
and those who will be living in the future. In addition, the interests of
the other living things with whom we share the Earth and the Earth as
a whole need to be held respectfully in mind.
When the topic at hand has been fully discussed, the group can then
make its decision about what actions to take. Who will do what; what
effects are expected from the action; and how will the effects observed
be compared to those anticipated? Finally, the information gathered,
following an action stage, can provide feedback for subsequent
meetings, enabling the group to move forward towards its goals.