We honor our colleague
and friend, Jon, who passed April 6, 2010.
appreciatively woven into the CWI website, remind us of his significant
and continuing influence as we seek to deepen our understanding
of collective wisdom.
What is an underlying question that gives form to your work or interest in this field?
How can spirit be evoked in any organisational setting
regardless of culture?
What is your personal experience of collective
wisdom in groups?
What I mean by spirit, in this sense, is the event when
something happens to a group that occasions an image, a feeling of awe
(the simultaneous precognitive experience of fear and fascination),
and an act of will and leaves a kind of residue.
I was a team leader for a community development project
in a village called Pace in Mississippi. Pace is about 10 miles from
where the three civil rights organizers were killed 10 years earlier.
The village was mostly black with a few rich white farmers.
Members of both communities supported the idea of the project but there
was tension. On the third day about 100 people were sitting in a large
hall waiting for the plenary to begin. As the starting time passed and
then an hour and then an hour and a half, we became more and more restless.
We sang songs and told jokes.
One of the white rich farmers and a black teacher came
into the hall and to the front of the room. They explained that a dilapidated
building owned by the farmer and collapsed and killed the high school
aged niece of the teacher. The girl had taken off from school to attend
the consultation. She died on her way to the meeting. Silence filled
the room. Images ran through my mind and a jumble of emotions ran through
me: remembering the beautiful young woman, fear that an already tense
situation could become dangerous, sorrow for the mother, concern about
the rest of the group, a picture of the old buildings in the block long
business district and many others.
The aunt then said that the funeral was to be held on
the coming Saturday. It was to be attended by members of the community
only. The girl’s family were together and doing as well as could
be expected. The farmer had taken a tractor and destroyed the rest of
the old building. She then said that the girl’s mother wanted
the consultation to go on. It was too important to be stopped.
In this tragedy something magical had happened.
What is it about the work in this field that excites
you and connects you to your own deepest self?
Facilitating groups to reach agreement about a plan or
to make a choice is a very exciting process.
Spiritually groups sometimes just do miraculous things.
Things that you should expect them to be able to do. Occasionally, a
group will really spark, a difficult situation will be overcome, a new
innovative idea will emerge, a new commitment will develop.
Facilitation of group decision-making processes is part
of a very long-term trend toward involving people in decisions that
affect their lives. I usually start with the Magna Carta through the
French and American Revolutions, the suffragettes, the turn of the century
labor movements to the present day. I am pretty sure the experiment
with representational democracy is in the process of ending and a more
direct form of decision making is taking its place.
Finally, group dynamics are amazingly complex and
interesting just to observe. They are unpredictable. They have a huge
capacity for fun. They can be tender and caring and mean spirited and
Please provide a brief storyline or snapshot of
what brought you to this work.
I joined the Ecumenical Institute in Chicago in May 1968.
The Institute (now the Institute of Cultural Affairs) developed social
models and methods. These were used in local community development projects
in many countries around the world. They also developed maps and guides
to spirituality. The first one I worked on is "The Other World,
in the Midst of This World", a description of 64 states of consciousness.
The second is "The New Religious Mode" which is the basis
of the work on what I am calling the “Interior Disciplines of
Facilitation”. They also developed techniques for enabling people
to become aware of the spiritual dimension of life.
Until 3 years ago, I had not written or developed programs
about spirituality for about 10 years. Although, I tell stories and
they are related to the spiritual. When I attended a conference put
on by the Center for Generative Leadership, I felt compelled to return
to this work.
At the same time, I am quite concerned with the
development of facilitation as a profession, which in turn relates to
spirituality in organisations.
How would you like to be available to others in
I found the conferences that Center for Generative Leadership
very helpful. The opportunity to meet face to face with a group of like
minded people and dialogue about these issues was important for me.
I found Claus Otto Scharmer's presentations very useful.
I belong to several online groups who sometimes touch
on these issues. It might be interesting to create such a group.
I am most often available via e-mail all the time. I
travel to the US a couple times a year and could be available around
My wife and I have developed a retreat on the Internal
Disciplines of a Facilitator and could give that to a group.
Links to this site or others:
Nine Disciplines of a Facilitator
The Union of International
Association - They have a great deal to say about world problems
and human potential.
Association of Facilitators - The IAF provides a number of insights
on group work. John Epps article on the meaning of work is one such.
The Co-working Institute
- This site was originally created by Bernie Dekoven and now maintained
by Gerrit Visser. It is largely focused on the technical aspects of
co-working but is not limited to this area.