Monday, October 07, 2013

Explore the Power of Collective Insight with Bonnitta Roy

I first became aware of Bonnitta Roy's brilliance at the 2010 ITC Conference - she was one of the presenters whose session I covered as part of my "official blogger" responsibilities. I knew she was an Associate Editor at the Integral Review, the best of the integral theory journals available (as well as being open access), but that was it.

Her presentation at the conference was titled, "AQAL 2210: A Tentative Cartology* of the FutureOr How do we Get from AQAL to A-perspectival?" Here is the abstract:


As early as 1946 Jean Gebser predicted that Integral consciousness would have the capacity to render all the previous structures of cognition transparent. Today we have the AQAL map which identifies and contextualizes the 8 indigenous or native perspectives of cognition. What is the possibility that there are emergent perspectives beyond the eight indigenous perspectives included in the AQAL framework? What would these potentially “super integrative” perspectives look like? Can we anticipate future potentials by identifying those who seem to be operating at or near the edges of these integrative perspectives today? In addition, Gebser predicted that Integral consciousness would have the capacity to make new kinds of statements, by engaging new types of thinking that would go beyond perspectival thinking into the realm of the A-perspectival. According to Gebser, the hallmarks of this new consciousness would include, in addition to transparency and integrity, dynamics of the whole, space and time freedom, and spirituality. So the question is “How do We Get from AQAL to A-perspectivalfrom the ability to contextualize perspectives across the boundaries that delimitate them, to a realm of unbounded wholeness? Writing in No Boundary, Wilber tells us:
The ultimate metaphysical secret, if we dare state it so simply, is that there are no boundaries in the universe. Boundaries are illusions, products not of reality but of the way we map and edit reality. And while it is fine to map out the territory, it is fatal to confuse the two.
Integral theory is tricky. In many respects, it is a liberation theory – whether it addresses personal, spiritual or social concerns. At its best, integral theory enables us to dis-embed from limited perspectival frameworks, and open up into more integrated views. However, at its worst, integral theory is absorbed as a metaphysical reality, as a fixed and static limitation on how we perceive, what we can perceive, and how reality arises. When Wilber writes that AQAL is a map of the prison, the integral community should immediately understand that there is no prison except for the map. A-perspectivity is the unconditioned situation of living/being without the map. If we can learn to operate from that unconditioned place, then we can create new maps through which new worlds might arise with greater degrees of freedom and open up our choice field. If we operate from that unconditioned place we will avoid the mistakes of misplaced concreteness that weld ideas into the bars and barriers of our self-imposed prisons. If we operate from that unconditioned place we will have transmuted the prisons of our selves into the playgrounds of spirit. We will, in other words, enter into the ever-present process of enacting our future.
Bonnitta was presenting the first "trans-integral" model of integral inquiry I had seen. Her presentation was excellent. I have been following her work ever since.

Now she is fundraising for a new virtual community working toward collective insight on Indiegogo. It sounds to me that she is working with a model that would fall under the heading of  intersubjective systems theory, but collective insight sounds nicer.

Here are the details for this new venture, complete with an interview of Bonnitta by Steve Nickeson.

Explore the Power of Collective Insight

A collaborative exploration on the power of collective insight

Steven Nickeson interviews Bonnie on her life, writing, and collaborative insight. Bonnie asked Steven to "really grill me to make it more real for people" ... and Steven does an excellent job of doing just that.

Collective Insight is the experience of a group of people working together all having the same key insight at the same time. Although one or two individuals might speak it first, each person experiences the insight, the “ah ha” moment, spontaneously and at the same time, so there is very little impression that one or another individual came up with the idea. On the contrary, people report the feeling of already knowing what the person was going to say, or alternately, the feeling of having someone “take the words right out of my mouth.”

Collective Insight can be compared to a group of musicians from different bands and different styles coming together to play. At first they are each playing in their own sound, so it just sounds like an arbitrary mixture of competing riffs. As they search for a sound that is completely new, the result goes through phases of dissonance and experiment. Without any previous idea of what the result will be, and without needing anything like agreement or consensus on this form or that, the group can spontaneously settle into a completely new sound – something that surprises even them. Together, they begin to “hear” the form that is shaping, that is moving them toward an emergent new way of playing that has never been played before.


We already know quite a few things about collective insight. We know it is a special and rare outcome of group interaction. We know that collective Insight is emergent, embodied, creative, spontaneous, imaginative, playful and powerful. Although most people have difficulty describing it, every person knows it when they experience it. In fact, outside observers who come in after the fact can tell when a group has achieved collective insights. We know that collective insight is powerful because it taps into creativity that is greater than the sum total of the individuals in the group. We know that it depends upon people in the group having a sufficient orientation toward letting go of their individual patterns of behavior, thinking, doing, and saying, while also being willing to abandon what they know in lieu of what they might be surprised to learn, and able to allow themselves to flow with emotional, dialogic, conceptual and relational movements through all kinds of phases and in any and all directions.

We know that collective insight requires the ability to stick with the engagement during the oftentimes long process of working through the uncomfortable periods when nothing seems to be happening, or everything seems to be going wrong. We know that these are periods which are very similar to natural adaptive processes, in which many configurations of outcomes are tried, but few achieve the right “fit” or resonance. In these periods, a bright idea might fizzle out while deep silence or dark tension might spark a wave of inspiration. We know that the process depends strongly on relational dynamics, and that relational dynamics are non-linear and ride strong waves of emotional energy and subtle energetics. Finally, we know that it is impossible to determine what is a “beneficial” contribution and what is not, since everything that happens contributes to the adaptive process, which can benefit from contributions that can feel pleasant or unpleasant, and that therefore, the greatest potential for collective insights happens in groups where people learn to be equanimous with the process and happy to participate without expectation of outcome.

For a little more than 20 years small groups of people around the world have been experimenting with different versions of collective engagement. The earliest attempts at group alignment, such as world cafĂ©, focus on forms of outward communication and forms of presentation. With the introduction of Otto Scharma’s U-theory the focus turned toward quality of the internal state or presence of the individuals participating in group activities. Ria Baeck has carried this into the practice of collective presencing. Bill Torbert introduced the system of action-logics and its role in leadership, while Terri O’Fallon’s GTC program focuses on the role of higher stages and states of awareness in facilitating transformative change. More recently Terry Patten coined the term “trans-rhetorical” and others have used the term “generative discourse” to signify a new type of discourse that leads to or arises within groups that practice what Dustin DiPerna has called transpersonal “inter-being.” Still, other practices rely on transpersonal states of spiritual arousal that open and deepen awareness toward a kind of trans-individual being, as reported by a core group of practitioners of Enlighten Next.

Almost all the practices we mentioned have taken place within groups that self-select based on community needs, shared values, or spiritual commitments. We can consider these practices as community-specific. Community-specific practices are in some sense “primed” by specialized language, shared memes, formal and sometimes rigorous rules of engagement – whether explicitly stated or operating implicitly. While these conditions maintain group cohesion, they can also intensify peer pressure and create false consciousness.

Despite this, and because of this, all the people participating in this symposium have been very careful to delineate specific approaches that steer clear of the conventional traps of collective practice. This symposium brings these traditions together for the first time to engage as peers – all on the same level, all in the same “soup” as it were – to practice collective insight. The practice we will perform will not be pre-stated, but must arise from the co-creative and emergent “fermentation process”, to use a tour from Bruno Latour – the form of the practice must arise from a kind of fermentation of what we bring, individually and collectively, to the engagement. We will be open to being surprised, and welcome what comes next.

This is both a challenging and exciting prospect. What will we find out about ourselves? What will we witness about the process of engaging as peers? What principles of collective practice will we discover? What significant insights will come, in the spontaneous co-creative relational dynamics that will course through our 4 days together.

If we can derive principles for generating collective insight in groups where there are few selection criteria, and where people represent a broad range of values and oftentimes “competing” worldviews – then we have a powerful practice for addressing 21 Century problems. How often our communities, our businesses, our organizations, our governments, stymied by dysfunctional means of discourse and pathological ways of being together. Relational dynamics are more often destructive than generative in groups, especially where the topics are complex and the stakes are very high.

If we can set out a rigorous set of principles for collective insight, that is not values or world-view specific, but is methodological in scope and processural in practice, then we have the possibility of bringing collective insight-training into a much larger context.

Your support is crucial to the outcome of the symposium. By helping us reach our goal, we will be able to develop a strong foundation and core curriculum for offering collective insight training. With additional funding, we can build a website that will host a collaborative college.

Because it is important to have a larger community be a part of this special event, we have designed the symposium so you can participate in many different ways. With a $ 40 donation you can join our social media site where you will receive real-time blog posts of what is happening "on the ground" so to speak, and participate with people like yourself who are enthusiastic and curious about collective insight. These will include photographs and short videos. You will meet and interact with others who, like you, are interested in building these emergent capacities.

At the $60 level you will receive private links to raw video footage of the symposium, which will include direct addresses and candid interviews. Up this to $80 and you will receive an Alderlore Insight Center T-shirt that will support our further work.

On Friday night and on Saturday night from 7-8:30 pm(Eastern), we will be live broadcasting two special events. Designed as a panel-on-panel "rapid fire" exchange, on all things arising -- these spontaneous discussions are sure to be extraordinarily fertile sessions. To participate, and add your voice to the fire, select Friday Night Lights or Saturday Night Fever (or both).

Those of you who will not be around to participate in real time, can opt to receive a dropbox of all the blog, video and livestream material in a post-production package by supporting us at the $ 200 level. Add an Alderlore T-Shirt, and you won't miss a beat.

For those who are interested in doing more, and be a part of the ongoing practice that emerges, there are three options. At the $ 400 level you can get started with a short training session which includes training material. At the $1200 level we offer customized coaching for facilitating collective insight. If you represent a team or group who could benefit from collective insight training, we offer a one-day on-site workshop given by Alderlore Insight Center faculty -- this for $ 3000 (travel and expenses not included). Your support at the $ 6000 level reserves the retreat studio at Alderlore Insight Center for you and up to 5 other people for a 4-day intensive that will immerse you in collective insight practice.

When similar events are held at convention centers, a greater percentage of the community's money is spent on outside products and services. Because the symposium is being held at Alderlore Insight Center, all the donations will go to benefit and further this work and sustain more initiatives like this.

Please spread the news about the symposium, about our work, and most importantly about this campaign for support. Tap into as many friends and family members as you can to donate even at the $ 25 level, because this work is important to you. As our communities of inquiry and practice grow larger and more distributed, it is crucial to keep investing in leading-edge research around topics and practices that are helping to create the future we hold in our hearts.
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