Re: Questions LO283

Mark F (
Wed, 1 Mar 1995 12:49:27 +1300

Replying to LO261

> reply to 178, 224
> "but people learn, not organizations."
> I once thought that I had to treat an organization as if it were
> conscious, in order to gain a foothold for org learning. Otherwise,
> all you have is individual learning.

I think someone has already raised the point that a group of cells
might well be having this debate about whether they should treat
"their human" as being conscious in order to gain a foothold for what
they see as being "organisational learning".

If we accept the concept of evolution of higher levels of complexity, and
the possibility that "collective consciousness" could provide significant
benefits to participating cells then then ought we to assume that whatever
experiments may have been carried out in the past will provide a
definitive (or even useful) guide to what might be happening now or in the

Then I did some checking and
> found a better solution. It is important to recognize that concrete
> consciousness is an attribute of an individual that emerges from the
> body. Groups don't have this attribute.

What data brought about such recognition for you? It seems to me that
there is growing evidence from the "fringes" (much of the OL work around
Dialogue by Isaacs et al points in this direction) that self referencing
consciousness is in fact accessible to groups under certain conditions. It
seems likely to me that business is certain to seek to test and exploit
this capacity simply because of the "competitive advantage" collective
consciouness would presumably provide (in the land of the blind the one
eyed is king).

There are, however, "social
> fields" that emerge from the interaction of concrete individuals and
> the world, and these fields are subject to development. If you say
> that the group is conscious, then you get into some discredited German
> social theory, cults, and so forth.

An underlying assumption here seems to be that consciousness is a
byproduct of a body and that without a group of people all joining
together physically to form some kind of superbody it is therefore
not possible to develop higher level forms of self referencing
consciousness. However, if consciousness is not, in fact, a by
product of a body (or in particular a nervous system/brain) then is
it not possible to imagine a level of "concrete" consciousness being
directly shared in a group whose individual fields of consciousness
have become consciously entrained?

I freely admit that I am convinced that this is possible because I
have experienced this to be the case in a variety of groups
regardless of what evidence may exist to the contrary.

My hope is that you do not simply write this off as impossible -
especially if you are working in the area of collaborative learning
because the most productive changes I have participated in in
this field have come about in conjunction with systemic developments
in this arena.

The infrastructure changes required to move in this direction, based
on our research to date, seem to mean that organisational learning is
a higher level function of groups learning, in the same way that
groups learning is a higher level function of individuals learning,
and that the primary motivation for experimenation is the
self-interest of individuals who acknowledge their interdependency in
creating a viable future.

I have also experienced the kind of group-think that can lead to cult
behaviour and lowered quality of decisionmaking and can only report
that, as with other developmental opportunities, collective consciousness has the
potential to limit or enhance levels of capability depending on the
quality of the process and the skill with which it is enacted.

If you say the group is LIKE a
> conscious body, then you have a lot of anthropomorphizing, which may
> be helpful to find ideas, but doesn't develop the language we need for
> appreciating social fields. I take this approach from Eric Voegelin,
> Anamnesis, where there is much more, beyond my ability to state.

What seems very helpful for me in thinking about social fields is
the help it can provide in differentiating what they are from simply
being the aggregate of a group of individuals. This line of thought
opens up the possibility that collective consciousness may allow for
new and previously unexpected capabilities to arise - in the same way that
water has completely unexpected capabilities relative to hydrogen and
oxegen (thanks to the person in the whole sys list for this example).