If we are going to shift from pyramidal intelligence and the hierarchies that it relies on, then we need to upgrade our group dynamics skills to be self-facilitating.

Multiple Personality Re-Order


Who am I, in a group of others? Some have tried to argue that we are a coherent single self that can maintain coherence despite moving through different environments and people. But those people didn’t go home for the holidays and revert into their usual family dynamics. We each are already an amalgam of selves that we create narrative around. (See: The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity.) These selves respond to their context. 

This month, we explore Group Dynamics. Consider the group within you. Your multiple selves. Which self of yours comes forward in what contexts? With what other people? When does that self shy away and others come forward? That sounds abstract, so try a specific one, like when does your critical/editor self come out? What groups have a more playful side of you come out?


Relationships Vibes


Who am I in relation with an other? Two is enough to say we are a group. Playing with Melissa, I am more likely to bring out wit and wonder. We have a dynamic that feels like a game of keeping laughter, like a ball, floating in the air between us. The dynamics of groups arises in the space and play in between each of us, the emergent culture and vibe of the group. 

How do you contribute culture and vibe to the groups you participate in? What group vibe attracts you? And do you think that is helpful for you?



Visiting Conway's Law


In last weekend’s Group Dynamics salon, we heard from Brandon Dubé on structural maneuvers to step away from more hierarchical group structures. He covered Cooperatives as a legal structure, Sociocracy as a governance structure, and Agile as a project structure. 

Brandon reminds us all about Conway’s Law

Conway's law is an adage that states organizations design systems that mirror their own communication structure. 

“Any organization that designs a system (defined broadly) will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization's communication structure.” — Melvin E. Conway

…In colloquial terms, it means complex products end up "shaped like" the organizational structure they are designed in or designed for…

If the structures of our groups impact the outputs of our groups, how are you consciously choosing, shaping, or transcending the structures of the groups you are in to co-create the outcomes you want?


Coalition Building


The Pressure to Turn Group Coal into Group Diamonds

I tend to think of systems as groups of groups, so here I am picturing the dynamics between groups rather than within groups. For example, when doing coalition building for a larger shared purpose, we may find our group next to another with different values but a shared purpose. As the nonprofit sector has increased focus on values-alignment rather than goal-alignment this seems to have increased the friction of coalition building. This reminds me of an important, perhaps even crucial, insight that I got from Sand Talk about violence.

“Violence exists, and it must be carefully structured within rituals governed by the paths of creation and the laws of sustainable cultures derived from those patterns. Violence employed in these highly interdependent and controlled frameworks serves to bring spirit into balance and hold in check the shadow of the I-am-greater-than deception. Every organism in existence does violence and benefits from it in reciprocal relationships.” Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta.

What I recognized in that was the foolishness of trying to snuff out violence. It moves around: we turn it in on ourselves, we push it off onto strangers, and so it also comes out in the friction of our groups. The strategy is not to try to annihilate it. The strategy needs to be to set up rituals for acting it out close to home, so it doesn’t get bigger and end up gnashing at our coalitions. It is also not useful to turn it on ourselves in hopes of not harming others. Put it in the center and create carefully structured and cleansing rituals for it. 

Both Melissa and Jean love rituals of fire: capturing things that need to be released by writing them down and then burning the heck out of them. (Inside-outing a tree - it pulled in light and built carbon, and we write on paper and releases light and carbon.)

Where have you experienced fantastic group dynamics between groups? Where has it been an issue? How is violence and difference held in these spaces? What rituals have you seen help groups within a shared system have healthier dynamics?