I often marvel at the vast intelligence, energy, and resources we collectively squander by undermining each other’s efforts. We see this happening everywhere–in business, politics, government, education, etc. One group springs up simply to oppose the goals and ideas of another. I often wonder what would happen if we could better align our efforts, focusing them coherently on the problems we all say we want to solve…much like a laser renders disparate light frequencies coherent enabling them to burn through steel. What would this take and how would be do it?
Tension is a force of nature that often inspires evolution and the creation of more complex systems. So perhaps sometimes some groups are better off being at odds with one another. When I consider my own life, I realize there are times when my thoughts, feelings, and actions aren’t congruent. I know this is true for most of us at least some of the time. So no wonder groups have a hard time aligning their efforts. After all, aren’t they simply a macro reflection of their individual members?
I recently came upon the Co-Intelligence Institute. They present a five-level model of intelligence that may contribute to the alignment of groups and the individuals that comprise them. Before we present this model, here are some relevant definitions that accompany it.
Intelligence – Intelligence is more than IQ. It is the whole palette of capacities through which we continually create a fit between our minds and lives and the world around us.
Co-intelligence – Co-intelligence is intelligence that is guided by and nurtures wholeness. Co-intelligence manifests in diverse ways that reflect wholeness, such as the integration of our heads and our hearts, the wisdom of spirit and nature, the collective intelligence of groups, communities, whole societies, and much more.
Wholeness – As noted above, co-intelligence is intelligence that is guided by and nurtures wholeness. Wholeness refers to the evolving inclusive coherence of life and its various parts, and the relationship dynamics between those parts. This coherence underlies familiar concepts like health, integrity, wholesomeness, holiness, and other holistic concepts. Comprehending the many dimensions and dynamics of wholeness can help us understand and enhance co-intelligence.
Wisdom – Co-intelligent theory views wisdom as the capacity to appreciate the wholeness of life with an expanded, deepened perspective — and to act on that appreciation to produce long-term common good, or useful lessons in that direction. Most phenomena normally associated with wisdom (compassion, humility, insight, etc.) are embraced by this view. Most importantly, wisdom in co-intelligence theory includes the expansion of perspective and co-creativity that’s possible through dialogue among diverse people or viewpoints. This is a major foundation for a wise democracy.
Five Dimensions of Co-Intelligence
The five dimensions of co-intelligence so far identified are multi-modal intelligence, collaborative intelligence, wisdom, collective intelligence and universal intelligence.
If we are to know life at a deeper, more engaged level, we’ll need to develop a deeper, more engaged intelligence that includes all these dimensions. The Co-Intelligence Institute offers a vision of such intelligence — a co-intelligent world view based on five revolutionary premises:
1) There is more to intelligence than brains and logic. Many varieties of intelligence are available to us.
Multi-modal intelligence means there are many ways to learn, know and engage with the world. Our bodies, minds, hearts and spirits contain a full palette of intelligences — emotional, analytic, intuitive, kinesthetic, narrative, moral… We can use more of these and integrate them better — especially in synergy with other people, since we’re all capable in such different ways.
“It is of the utmost importance that we recognize and nurture all of the varied human intelligences….If we can mobilize the spectrum of human abilities, not only will people feel better about themselves and more competent; it is even possible that they will also feel more engaged and better able to join the rest of the world community in working for the broader good.”
– Harvard professor Howard Gardner, “Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice” –
2) There is more to intelligence than successfully predicting and controlling things. We can creatively respond to life. We can collaborate with the world around us.
Collaborative intelligence means finding and working with all the available allies and cooperative forces around us – and there are many. There are always energies we can fruitfully align with, both existing and potential – even within the heart of adversaries and problems. Working with each other, with nature, and with the natural tendencies in us and the world, we can accomplish more with less, and enjoy it more.
“Rather than asking, ‘What can I get from this land, or person?’ we can ask, ‘What does this person, or land, have to give if I cooperate with them?’…. Everything is a positive resource; it is up to us to work out how we may use it as such.”
– Bill Mollison, “Permaculture: A Practical Guide for a Sustainable Future” –
3) There’s more to intelligence than solving the problems in front of our faces. There’s wisdom
–the big picture, the long term.
Wisdom means seeing beyond immediate appearances and acting with greater understanding to affirm the life and development of all involved. It involves balance, mystery and tolerance of ambiguity and change. The expanded perspective that accompanies wisdom fosters wonder, humility, compassion and humor.
“The creative edge of truth begins to shift from knowledge to wisdom…[thus moving] on to the challenges of balance, perspective, sustainability and integration.”
– Charles M. Johnston, “Necessary Wisdom” –
4) There is more to intelligence than individual intelligence. There is collective intelligence, the intelligence we generate together.
Collective intelligence means that families, groups, organizations, communities and entire societies can act intelligently as whole, living systems. What we believe, what we do, and how we organize our collective affairs can make or break our collective intelligence. We could improve our collective intelligence to a point where humanity not only survives and flourishes into the foreseeable future, but consciously evolves.
“We need a collective intelligence of a kind that may not have characterized the human
species in the past.”
– Paul Hawken, James Ogilvy, Peter Schwartz, “Seven Tomorrows,” a report on the work of the futures research group at Stanford Research Institute –
5) There is more to intelligence than human intelligence. Intelligence is a property of the universe and of all that’s in it.
Universal intelligence is the intrinsic tendency for things to self-organize and co-evolve into ever more complex, intricately interwoven and mutually compatible forms. Our human intelligence is but one manifestation of that universal dynamic. The more we are conscious of universal intelligence and connect ourselves to it, the more intelligence (and wisdom) we’ll have to work with.
“The mind, I believe, exists in some very real sense in the universe…. Mind was a primary part of nature from the beginning and we are simply manifestations of it…. mind is inherent in the way the universe is built.”
– Astrophysicist Freeman Dyson, “US News and World Report” (4/28/88) –
How can you use the concept of co-intelligence in your groups? Share your questions, feedback, or comments below.