Our co-founders, John Ott and Rose Pinard, created the Leadership for Collective Wisdom© framework based on original research and writing, and decades of work designing and leading organizational and community change efforts. This framework is proving to be powerfully effective at helping organizations and communities improve results, resolve adaptive dilemmas, and strengthen the wellbeing of staff, community members, and partners.
Three concepts provide the foundation for the Leadership for Collective Wisdom© framework.
- Collective wisdom—a transcendent knowing that can lead to profound action—is an innate capacity of any group. Whenever two or more of us gather, we have the potential to experience and be guided by collective wisdom. Groups also have the potential for collective wisdom’s opposite—collective folly.
- Leadership is the capacity of any individual or group to cultivate the conditions for collective wisdom to arise in support of effective action.
- In any collective effort, there are four dimensions of change that affect our work together: the individual interior and exterior dimensions of change, and the group interior and exterior dimensions of change.¹ The following diagram graphically represents these four dimensions:
Leadership for Collective Wisdom
The more effectively and consistently that individuals and groups engage all four dimensions of change, the more likely they will experience collective wisdom arising to support their efforts. But how do we do this? How do we engage all four dimensions of change in a disciplined and sustained way to open a portal for collective wisdom? One answer to this question is the Leadership for Collective Wisdom© framework.
No group can simply decide to be wise, just as no gardener can decide to make a tomato. If a gardener longs for tomatoes, she must plant the seeds, and then carefully tend to the conditions that support their growth. She waters; she weeds; she protects; she waits. The better she is at sustaining the conditions that nurture tomatoes, the more likely she will be graced with an abundance of ripe, juicy fruit.
So it is with collective wisdom. The seeds of collective wisdom are always present whenever two or more of us gather, but to realize this potential, we must nurture the conditions that make it more likely for collective wisdom to arise among us. Engaging the four dimensions of change in a disciplined and sustained way is how we become gardeners of collective wisdom.
Cultivating the conditions that support the emergence of collective wisdom requires two aspects of leadership: self leadership and collective leadership. The Leadership for Collective Wisdom© framework maps these different aspects of leadership to the four dimensions of change. Self leadership involves commitments and practices in the individual interior and exterior dimensions of change, while collective leadership requires commitments and practices in the group dimensions of change:
Every C4CW process is grounded in the Leadership for Collective Wisdom© framework. Our intention through this framework is to help our partners work at the speed, breadth, and depth needed to effect and sustain both their positive impact in the world, and their experience of joy and generosity arising.
¹ This concept was inspired by Ken Wilber’s work on the evolution of consciousness. See, e.g., A Brief History of Everything, Boston: Shambhala, 1996.