The consciousness dimension of leading change has been largely ignored in the past
and will be essential in the years to come. – Dr. Otto Scharmer, Author, Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges
The Harvard Business Review (June 2011) reported on a study* by Anita Woolley and Thomas Malone that says collective intelligence is active on family, company, city and country levels.
Their most fascinating finding is that when groups are made up solely of women the group scores higher in collective intelligence, as women are more “sensitive”. Woolley says, it is “not that the members are all really smart but that they listen to each other. They share criticism constructively. They have open minds. They’re not autocratic. And in our study we saw pretty clearly that groups that had smart people dominating the conversation were not very intelligent groups.”
I’ve spent many years in sisterhood and co-creation with a group of wonderful and powerful women from Europe and the United States. We originally called ourselves, “Women Moving the Edge,” and now in our 12th year of meeting monthly in online forums, we call ourselves “The Collective Presencing Group” (CP for short). Over the years, the collective field we have built together is palpable. We laugh, cry, share deeply in the moment, sense into new waves of insights, and speak using a virtual talking piece. This slows us down so we can be present and sense what is arising between us. Hence, “presencing“**
Ria Baeck, is one of the original callers of Women Moving the Edge. She, along with Helen Titchen-Beeth, a member of our circle, created an action research project from the data gathered in our years of innovative gatherings. They’ve formulated in-depth articles and book chapters that center on “how we can rediscover the sense of wonderment in life and participate in the radiance and magnificence of all that is. Ourselves included. Our work included. Others included. Everything included.” I invite you to read more and be inspired here.
Several initiatives my colleagues and I have “hosted” (a form of facilitation) have been open to men, such as our recent program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Business entitled, “Collective Healing: Seeding the Field for Optimism Amidst Chaos.”
Men have been socially conditioned to speak up more than women, so deep listening practice can be a bit frustrating for some. Still, we are always grateful when a few brave men, who are always outnumbered by women, join us and share in reflective, subtle ways.
There is value in women-only groups, as the research shows. As more women build capacity to deeply listen and act from inner wisdom, we will be able to “hold the field” in a way that creates safe space for more men and women to join.
And, Expansive Leadership practices are needed for men and women alike in these days of great transformation. Contact me if you are ready to slow down (I know, not easy these days!) and learn to access the collective intelligence that is all around you to help you, and us, feel optimistic even amidst chaotic times.
* The Harvard study was conducted by Anita Woolley, an assistant professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon University and Thomas Malone, founding director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence.
** Coined by Dr. Otto Scharmer, Presencing is “the capacity to connect to the deepest sources of self—to go to the inner place of stillness where knowing comes to surface.”