Group Genius for people not in groups


November 2nd, 2008

I’m re-reading Keith Sawyer’s book Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration after hearing Keith speak at the improv conference in Chicago.

Many of the things that Keith said resonated:

  • Improv has important lessons for business – the group generates something better than even the best individual
  • Improv is action without planning where the meaning emerges – meaning that is unpredictable, emerges over time, maybe involves lots of dead ends and where everyone creates
  • And we need ‘dead ends’ – that allow the collective wisdom of the group to emerge
  • Balance the need to get business done with the need to be innovative

It also occurred to me that innovation in facilitation is about the experience, not necesarilly about new processes (although it can be that too). And what improvisation can bring to facilitation is a new way of experiencing.

Keith also talked about some of the myths of creativity and innovation:

Myth: The flash of insight
Reality: Emerges over time

Myth: Straight path to success
Reality: Multiple dead ends

Myth: The lone genius
Reality: Small ideas from many different people

Which brings me to the question of how to tap into group genius when you work by yourself? It’s one of the reasons I attend conferences, have coffee and lunch with friends, skype  – the opportunity to share ideas with others. How do you tap into the group genius?

2 Comments so far

  1. Keith Sawyer on November 4, 2008 12:26 am

    I spend a lot of my time in my basement office, writing at the computer, alone. So I have the same need to seek out interaction, conversation…I agree with you that attending conferences and “never having lunch alone” are good practices.

    The Internet has made it easier to work alone while staying in touch with the collective…I can find an on-line research article in just seconds, or email a colleague with a question. Imagine how different working alone would have been back in the 1800s, when you had to live near a great library to access history’s greatest minds, or you couldn’t communicate with anyone outside of your town unless you knew their mailing address. (and even then you had to wait a couple of weeks for a reply)

  2. Viv McWaters on November 4, 2008 10:23 am

    Thanks Keith – or even the 1980s! I remember doing a part-time Media Studies degree and spending hours and hours in the library searching for references. How different it is now!

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