"None of us is as smart as all of us." --Ken Blanchard
Many see The Industrial Revolution (1730-1750 approx) as the key moment in history when the basic patterns of contemporary organisational culture were established. At the beginning of this process, the majority of the population lived in small self-sufficient village communities based around agriculture, craft, specialist services and cottage industries. The needs of the community and attunement to the rhythms of nature provided the central organisational focus for all. With the founding of the Bank of England & the money system in its present form, plus technological developments, entrepreneurs created a new organisational principle; the needs of the company/organisation. The basic pattern established to maintain this, continuing within society to this day, is of a vertical male-led hierarchy. At the top of the hierarchy is the boss and below him are layers of people, each subservient to the layer above, each with authority and control over the layer below. The organisation itself defines the qualities and skills it needs for its own maintenance and growth and individuals have to fit in to this, or else perish. Political, economic, educational, transportation and social structures have all developed with the single aim of supporting this model of governance and constitute the current "establishment". While nowadays women & other hitherto marginalised groups increasingly occupy positions within the system, the basic pattern continues. For most people, their daily life is concerned with trying to fit in to this system. The meeting of personal needs is constrained by and subservient to meeting the needs of the system, itself falling apart & unravelling, resulting in escalating issues of bullying, institutional aggression, growing inequality and serious mental health issues. This pattern can be seen as a "story" ; a narrative that defines the way most envisage change; trying to find or create a better and more effective influence within the system, while still conforming to the terms of the old story.
This old story can be framed as a "from the top down model". Change is sought by trying to persuade, or demand, that the levels higher up the hierarchy embody the agenda that progressive groups seek to manifest. The new emerging models, comprising a new story, vastly magnified in effectiveness by the advent of the internet & social media, operate "from the bottom up", as new groupings organically coalesce around a shared vision, principle or idea. In this model, what holds the group together is the connections made between people. Every individual has an equal potential to influence the group expression.
Because it is a new story, these groups also need new models of leadership to foster effective group development. The role of leadership here is to identify, focus, nurture and co-ordinate each individual´s unique skills, needs, insights and ideas, their "personal story", into a group expression, rather than impose decisions and directions "from above". The old story defines & limits choice in a number of ways; directly through imposition and force of status/character, the visualisation of organisationally-defined roles & a consequent search for individuals to fill those roles, or indirectly through a democratic decision-making process; by necessity confined to a limited range of options and excluding the infinite range of choices that a person-centred approach naturally makes possible. Within the old story, an individual vision of possibility gets lost and is discouraged. Within the new story, it is central to the process and is what makes it work.
The new story of person-centred regenerative group development results in the expression of "synergy", defined as where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. In the diagram, the GREEN colour represents the creative output of the group. The left-hand section represents a group operating according to the old story, where individuals, the circles, are constrained in their expression by an organisationally-defined role, a democratically agreed consensus, or activity restricted to where individual opinions converge. This contrasts with the creative expression of a new story group, where individuals are free to define their own role, where the only consensus is what individuals are inspired to co-create together and where activity evolves as individuals share their personal stories; helping each other, supporting each other and making connections together. In this new model, individuals retain their independence and integrity.
7 Skills for Regenerative Group Development
- Trust. Trust that others are acting and thinking in the groups best interests.
- Listen. Listen carefully to what others are really saying and meaning.
- Feedback. Give and be willing to receive constructive feedback.
- Support. Support each other, even if we disagree with them. They will have a reason for any views or opinions.
- Mindfulness. Cultivate self-awareness, especially of prejudices and fixed opinions.
- Welcoming. Welcome newcomers and the fresh perspective and enthusiasm they bring.
- Experiment. Be willing to try different approaches to group work.
See also Regenerative Group Development Part 2.
The key to creating healthy groups is identifying, cultivating and integrating ways of supporting connection, trust and a sense of safety.