What is an underlying question that gives form to your work or interest in this field?
How can people in groups, organizations and society face
the key issues and achieve breakthroughs?
What is your personal experience of collective
wisdom in groups?
For a number of years, I attended seminars at the Guild
for Psychological Studies, where the leaders facilitated a deep,
heart-felt dialogue on spiritual questions. The retreats, usually for
one or two weeks, would establish a conversational dynamic that would
be so creative and insightful that there was an almost hearable “buzz.”
It was as if we were all part of one mind, maybe “the” one
I sought to bring this experience of collective wisdom
into a workplace environment. I was a consultant to a sawmill at the
time and convened meetings of hourly employees aimed at improving quality
and productivity. I experimented with different approaches and developed
a new method, which is now known as “Dynamic
Facilitation.” It’s where people face difficult issues
collaboratively and creatively, in the spirit of dialogue, and where
progress happens through breakthroughs of head and heart.
During these dynamically facilitated meetings mill workers
sometimes “woke up” after years of denial and bitterness,
to their own brilliance and they connected deeply with one another.
They became thoughtful and wise, reshaping the company from the bottom
up. Since then, especially with Dynamic Facilitation and dialogue, I’ve
experienced wisdom in group settings often.
What is it about the work in this field that excites
you and connects you to your own deepest self?
I’ve always known that there is a zone of thinking
and communicating where I, others, and groups become brilliant. It’s
“transformational talking” instead of “transactional
talking.” When a group is in the transformational “zone,”
everyone is gifted, vital and appreciated.
But what facilitates this creative “zone”
of thinking and talking? And why are there times when it isn’t
there? Now, I’ve found some answers to these questions. First
came “Dynamic Facilitation”--how to help small groups of
people find the zone. Then came the method of the “Wisdom Council”--how
to help large systems of people find the zone. I believe society can
be helped to find this “zone” far more quickly than most
people imagine. I’ve written a book describing how, Society’s
Breakthrough! Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People.
Making this happen is a life commitment for me.
Please provide a brief storyline or snapshot of
what brought you to this work.
I've always been interested in why, if creativity exists
at all on the planet, we don't apply it to the crucial collective problems
we face? When there is a possibility of war, for instance, or global
warming, we don't seem to come together as a society and get creative.
Instead, we ignore the problems or battle back and forth over partial
solutions until a crisis confronts us.
As an internal consultant within Simpson Timber Company,
I had the opportunity to meet with hourly employees on a regular basis
and to try out different approaches to solving impossible-to-solve issues.
As a facilitator I helped them to identify the issues they really wanted
to solve, rather than what they “should” work on. This often
meant addressing issues that would normally be taboo, like “we’re
still angry about a wage cut we took four years ago,” or “we
don’t trust management.”
Generally, I found that the usual approaches for
facilitating did not work for these big “wicked” problems.
I experimented with the perspectives of Jungian psychology, heart-felt
dialogue, analytical thinking, and creative problem solving. Blending
these approaches I found something that did work, Dynamic Facilitation.
How would you like to be available to others in
Since 1990, I’ve been teaching public and in-house
seminars on Dynamic Facilitation Skills. Through discounts and scholarships,
I do what I can to make the seminar available to interested people,
especially to activists. A number of interested people have formed a
non-profit organization the Center
for Wise Democratic Processes to support those who want to use Dynamic
Facilitation and the Wisdom Council as ways to transform society.
Links to this site or others:
Jim Rough and Associates,
Jim's book: Society's
Breakthrough! Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
Center For Wise Democratic Processes
The Co-Intelligence Institute