Friday, January 14, 2011

How to Tap Into the Genius of Groups for World Change

So I've been reading this amazing book from a few years back, Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius, exploring the great minds we have come to call “Genius” over time for how they changed our world as they found it.

And now I have this Big Idea spinning around. 

Why wait for our next DaVinci, Newton, Einstein, Edison, Copernicus for world change?  Why not duplicate what they have done individually—by figuring out how to do it in groups?  True MasterMind groups.   Think Tanks for Global Issues.

The one thing each one of those household names we call Creative Geniuses listed had in common—across very different actual IQ scores, family backgrounds, educations and other factors—was the capacity to approach a problem from multiple angles till the most creative and effective solution was found.

Few individuals are wired to think that way—or just think how many names we could add to that list by now!

But if we truly learn to embrace this new trend toward “Celebrating Diversity”--and stop labeling diversity by superficial differences and accurately look for diversity of thought instead—couldn't we duplicate that same phenomenon over and over again?  Couldn't we create our own Genius Groups, who look at complex world problems from all angles till they are solved?

I say yes.

I say it based on the strength of my diverse group of Facebook friends alone.

When I wrote a note Celebrating the Diversity of my first 100 Facebook friends to stream in (representing 7 countries of origin, over 20 states and about 25 different communities I've been an intimate part of along my journey around the country) I didn't know what to expect for response.

But here are the stats of the random 6 who liked the concept enough to immediately respond.

  • Political Views: evenly divided between 2 Republicans, 2 Moderates, 2 Liberals
  • Cultural Perspectives: again evenly divided between three very different cultures--2 living in the hardworking rural Midwest, 2 from the business driven Dallas area, and 2 in LA land of dreams 
  • Generational Angles: Close to a 2/2/2 split here as well, among our three very different generational distinctions currently active in the workforce.

And perspectives on Faith?!
  • Buddhist/New Age, Jewish, Catholic—plus 3 divisions of Protestants: Baptist, Pentecostal and Reformed.

Now that's what I think we really mean—or perhaps should—when we cite the trend that the Celebration of Diversity will help usher in the Dream Era!  Diversity of thought.  Not diversity of skin color, hair color, eye color.  (My biological niece Megan and I look totally different in that regard, but the same forces that shaped my thinking are now shaping hers.  Diversity?  I don't think so.)  What we really need Bridges between if we're going to Change the World is between very different and sometimes seemingly insurmountable Diversity of Thought.

So here's my Big Idea:
  • Tapping Into the Genius of Groups of Diverse Views to think tank and mastermind out complex global problems.  At the local level.  And at the international and global levels.  Literally starting right where we're at today and taking on the wold's problems one by one as ordinary people from all walks of life.  

Sound too easy?

I'd like to suggest we've never given it a try before, consistently, at any time in history. 

We group by Same in thought perspectives.  Not by Different. Always have.

But now we have easy forums for doing something new like these bridge-building groups, both in-person and virtually.
  • From coffee houses to chat rooms, 
  • Discussion forums after seminars or after webinars, 
  • Meetup to Facebook groups.

Am I suggesting we throw away deeply held beliefs and opinions overnight or stop grouping by common perspectives for family life and faith practices and even work?  Not at all.  Diversity tends to be really messy and some amount of shared starting place saves time in moving forward in daily life. 

But sameness of thinking isn't doing us any favors in solving complex global issues that most of us on the planet—no matter our faith or political perspectives—agree on wanting to see changed.  All we do is spin our wheels in the same old mire of stuckness, trying to partner with minds thinking just the same as we are.

How would it work?  Here are some potential beginning steps:
  1. Form small groups of people different enough in perspective from one another as mine that randomly formed over shared interest in diversity
  2. Keep the groups 4-9 in membership*
  3. Choose Causes common to each member of the group (plenty out there: world hunger, clean drinking water, sex trafficking, child abuse, sustainability, misuse of authority in workplace/government/home)
  4. Ask group members to keep focus as targeted as possible to just the Cause at hand (honor the old “don't discuss politics or religion”) 
  5. Appoint a couple group members to learn and facilitate some of the creative techniques great thinkers who have contributed to civilization in the past have used for problem solving.  [Books on Cracking Creativity, Thinking Like DaVinci, MindMapping, Thinkertoys.]
  6. Meet at least bi-monthly for an hour and a half a a time to throw out every possible idea of what a group of concerned, committed people could do--starting today--on this Cause.
  7. Each take the pooled solutions back to separate Sameness-oriented groups (families, churches, neighborhoods) to start implementing.
These bridge-building Think Tanks could become a starting place for any person from any walk of life to get involved in World Change.

Perhaps the “Grouping together in NeoTribes” trend that futurists are projecting for this next era of civilization includes forming bridges from within our Sameness groups that cross over into radically Different groups to learn what our greatest minds down through history each knew how to do within themselves: look at problems from as many different angles as possible until the solution is found.

Will we wait for our next Newton, our next Einstein, our next DaVinci, our next Edison?  Or will we choose to temporarily accept that whatever is drawing others to different faiths and political views and generational and cultural mindsets than our own could also be a part of their minds wired to see things differently than we do?  And that together—using all those parts for problem-solving on complex global issues—we could accomplish vastly more than we have so far?

I'm in.  Anyone with me on this?

* Rebecca D. Costa in her cage rattling, world-shaking book The Watchman's Rattle cites a study that has shown we need more than three and fewer than ten in a group to effectively harness the power of group problem-solving which is why I suggest groups of 4 to 9.

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