Listening for Collective Intelligence


Recently I attended the Australasian Facilitators Network Conference held at Stanwell Tops, New South Wales, Australia (October 15-18). The conference focus was on improving our facilitation skills through strengthening intercultural processes.

The title of the Conference was “Marelin, Yarning all ways”

I gave a short (1 ½ hour) workshop called: Listening for collective intelligence.

For the first part of the workshop I shared about how I came to an understanding of collective intelligence in groups.

This personal journey included noticing collective intelligence at work in groups through the lens of music making, and also through being involved in groups in which the languages used were unfamiliar.

Photo by Jacinta Cubis

Music making

I grew up in a musical family, and at the age of nine I was given a clarinet and a clarinet lessons. This led on to a musical journey which became a career as a clarinetist in the Auckland orchestra (then called the Symphonia of Auckland). This orchestral career continued until I was 34.

The musical training that prepared me for this career included university study (clarinet, musical history, harmony and aural training) and lots of orchestral experience in orchestras (Avondale College Orchestra, the Auckland Junior Symphony Orchestra and New Zealand National Youth Orchestra. I also had excellent clarinet teachers (Ken Wilson, George Hopkins and Murray Musson) and many opportunities to take part in chamber music groups.

Looking back from the perspective of further life experience in fields outside of music, I realized that one of the things I learnt as an orchestral musician, was how to be a holistic listener. Listening is the key skill set to being able to contribute to and blend with others as an ensemble player.

One listens for many different things including: being in tune with other instruments, synchronizing volume, intensity, phrasing, noticing the movement of key themes and harmonies to bring them forward as needed or indicated by the conductor, listening to support musically fellow musicians that may need this in the moment, listening for the unexpected and the expected.

An effective musician is also actively listening to the structure and form of the whole musical work as it unfolds including the shape, flow and sense of the music,

(A jazz musician listens in many similar ways to the orchestral musician with some extra freedoms to improvise within the overall patterns and agreed structure).

These listening skills became part of my normal day to day activity, like a fish swimming in water. I did not know I had these highly-honed skills: I was unconsciously competent.

Community development:

At the age of 35 I switched to a new career, that of community development worker, focusing on the arts. This career began with attending many community meetings, often held in Pacific languages I did not know, such as Maori, Samoan, Cook Island, Tongan and sometimes a mixture of these together with English. My orchestral listening skills automatically came into play as I listened to make sense of these meetings. I listened for structure, patterns, flow, pitch, intensity, and strove to understand what was happening and how I could be of assistance in forwarding the projects and issues that were being discussed.

I kept listening for the next 12 years and gradually was also able to contribute by adding my voice to the deliberations. I also gravitated towards the role of the group facilitator, and seemed to have some affinity for this role of process guide.

Reflecting back now after a further career as a professional group facilitator and trainer of group facilitators, I can appreciate that applying my listening skills to group meetings was a natural outreach of my music listening skills. The meetings of people had become the orchestra and chamber music groups of my first career.

Collective intelligence:

The way I listened in group meetings was at first quite unconscious. I discovered, on reflection, that I was listening for the “natural” flow of a meeting, the beginning (introduction and themes outlined), the development of the themes (discussions, different ideas, disagreement, ebb and flow of intensity, strong feelings, dissonance and key changes), the emerging of resolution, (tentative suggestions, start and stop of agreement, desire to get to resolution, frustration, more agreement (or not) and ending, often including prayer or other ritual.

This listening for the process and content of a meeting, I now think of as noticing the unfolding of collective intelligence: the natural desire of humans to think, verbalize, express themselves, problem solve and work things out together. This is totally normal and natural.

Then there are the times that things are not worked out, that frustration occurs, tempers flare, upset occurs and people go away disappointed or angry. (At an extreme, collective intelligence also contains its opposite – that of collective stupidity in the same way that music can collapse into chaos and confusion. This is why an orchestral conductor is usually necessary).

A group facilitators job is a little like that of an orchestral conductor. A facilitator guides a group towards a constructive outcome so that the people involved feel that the issue or project is moving forward in a productive way, even if not every meeting is entirely harmonious. Collective intelligence is a natural part of an organized group of doing things together.

Focusing on the whole:

Listening for collective intelligence is easier if we are able to distinguish the individual personas of the people in a group from the collective workings of a group. It is helpful for the facilitator to focus more on the collective (whole group).


For example,

  • Rather than – person A disagreeing with person B (individual personas), the facilitator will be noticing that there were differing opinions expressed, A and B as part of the whole group.
  • Rather than – person A was not listening to person B and they were arguing, the facilitator will be noticing that the group expressed differing views (A and B).
  • Rather than – person B was “being unpleasant and argumentative” and person A was also “being disagreeable” the facilitator will be noticing that factions were forming around differing perspectives.

Listening for the collective does require some considerable skill. This can be learnt, for example, in facilitator training.

I can get into a lot more detail around listening for and unpicking the language of collective intelligence and have just discovered a new word, holopticism, which relates to this. However, I would firstly like to get some feedback from readers, particularly other facilitators, as to how you picked up the skills of listening for the whole group process (or what I call collective intelligence).

A couple of references:

Here is a definition of the word holopticism.

Towards an indigenous-informed facilitation practice .pdf
A newly developed resource generated by indigenous facilitators  who are part of the Australasian Facilitators Network.

Here is a short interview with Anita Wooley who is a leader in Collective Intelligence research and her work is worth exploring in depth.


Here is a link to the website of renowned Otto Scharmer (Theory U) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The photo set as the featured image on this page is by Jacinta Cubis

67 Shades of decision-making

Over the last few months I have been exploring decision making processes that can be used by groups and organisations. I was interested in encouraging groups and facilitators to extend their range and choices.

As a part of this project I led a conference workshop for facilitators which included a kind of brain storm of all the decision making processes and techniques we knew and had used. This was fun and resulted in about 50 such processes. A second workshop on a similar theme, at another conference,  brought out some further processes and techniques. My colleague Simone Maus and I wrote up these processes in the paper below (and attached). Do use this resource as you see fit.

Here is a .pdf of the full text that you can download and work with :


“67 Shades of decision-making” by Dale Hunter and Simone Maus.

Here is a selection of decision-making processes that facilitators and group workers can use with groups. This list was initially collected from participants of the “50 Shades of decision-making” workshop at the Australasian Facilitators Conference (AFN) at Ballina Beach, NSW, Australia, November 2015. Then the list was expanded to include content collected at the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) Oceania Conference in Melbourne, South Australia, May 2016. These additions are indicated with a (*).There are now 67 processes.

For easier use, we have created some categories:

A ) Simple group decision-making techniques
B ) More advanced group decision-making methods and techniques
C ) Intuitive methods and techniques
D ) Philosophical and political systems / methods
E ) Preparing for decision-making

In this document the abbreviation “pr.” refers to “processes” ( as referenced in Dale Hunter’s books ). These processes will also soon be made available through

Section A: Simple group decision-making techniques

A1 Applause – clapping
Volume of clapping indicates support. Length of clapping indicates support.|

  • In response to the question: Which of these ideas/solutions do you like the best?  

A2 Chance:

  • Scissors, Paper, Rock.
  • Pick names from a hat ( to decide on the order of “turns” ).
  • Pick numbers from a hat ( raffle ).
  • Drawing straws ( of different lengths ) This is another good method for organising the order of “turns”.
  • Throw the dice.

A3 Standing up (yes) and sitting down (no)

  • “If you like this solution, stand up”.

A4 Continuums
Create an imaginary line across the floor. People place themselves along the line according to strength of preference or opposition. People strongly in favour of proposal are asked to go to one end of line – those strongly against go to the other end of the line.

  • Continuum, pr. 24 ( Dale Hunter: The Art of Facilitation, p. 260 ).

A5 Using dots / ticks / marks to indicate preferences ( Dot-mocracy )
Everyone has a certain amount of dots/ ticks/ marks they can put on a list of options. The highest number of dots indicates the top preferences of the group. For more examples see:, also now called Idea Rating Sheets:

For examples of decision-making processes, where preference marking can be used.

  • Priority Setting, pr. 4. ( Dale Hunter: The Art of Facilitation, p. 238 ).
  • Criteria Setting, pr. 5. ( Dale Hunter: The Art of Facilitation, p. 239 ).

A6 Moderation with Emoticons
Smiley faces for ‘I like’, ‘I don’t like’, ‘I don’t mind’.

A7 Hand signals and finger counting.
This technique gives a quick ‘read-out’ of levels of agreement.
A fist (0 fingers) means “I don’t agree” and 5 fingers means
“I totally agree”. The level of agreement can be indicated by increasing the number of fingers 1 – 5.

A8 Arm gauge
To indicate agreement or enthusiasm ( up, down, halfway ).
E.g., Arm above your head – high agreement , arm close to your hip – low.

A9 Thumb gauge
To indicate agreement or enthusiasm ( up, down, halfway ).

A10 Voting using a %
This includes majority decision-making ( such as national and local government elections) where over 50% agreement is required. In facilitated groups a different % percentage may be used ( e.g. 75% ) for all or some decisions. There are many techniques to get a % vote from a group and some are included in this document.

A11 Voting with your mobile phone
Vote by pressing a certain combination on your phone.

  • The group can vote by sending a text to the facilitator ( or designated group member ). This method was popularised by TV talent and reality programmes for audience voting.

A12 “What is your 48hour commitment?”*
Usually only for one action.

A13 “Captain’s – Call” as an interim Measure*
A designated leader decides on behalf of group.

A14 Voting using Gold Coins ( instead of dots )*
E.g., “How do I spend the money?”.

A15 Gradient of Agreement Scale*
The Gradients of Agreement Scale was developed in 1987 by Sam Kaner, Duane Berger, and the staff of Community At Work.
It enables members of a group to express their support for a proposal in degrees, along a continuum. Using this tool, group members are no longer trapped into expressing support in terms of “yes” and “no.”

See ( Kaner : Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making )

Section B:  More advanced decision-making methods and techniques

B1 Developing criteria for decision making.
Criteria can be weighted by importance and then used to inform decisions. E.g.,

  • Criteria Setting, pr. 5: (Dale Hunter : The Art of Facilitation, p. 239).
  • Solution-Storming, pr. 86: (Dale Hunter et al : Zen of Groups p.157).
  • Agenda Setting, pr. 9:  (Dale Hunter et al : Zen of Groups p. 102).
  • Brainstorming, pr. 3: (Dale Hunter et al : Zen of Groups p. 95).

B2 Prioritisation processes:
For example: Sort into priorities ( say 1 – 5 ),

  • Priority Setting, pr.4. (Dale Hunter: The Art of Facilitation, p.238).
  • Refining Priority List, pr.11 (Dale Hunter et al : Zen of Groups, p.104).

B3 Listening for agreement
One of the skills of a facilitator is to pick up on the energy of the group  and to listen for an alignment or a decision to be spoken.

  • Listen for agreement, pr. 14. (Dale Hunter: The Art of Facilitation, p. 250).

B4 Coloured Card System
Earthsong Eco Neighbourhood Group uses a consensus decision-making process of coloured cards. This is a system used widely in the co-housing movement.  

  • Appendix A (Dale Hunter: The Art of Facilitation, p 321).

B5 Hand signs from the Zbaba Facilitators Collective
The group decides on hand signals i.e. “I would like to say something” ( Raise your hand with 1 finger up ), “I agree with you” ( Wave two hands in the air )etc.,

  • Appendix B (Dale Hunter: The Art of Facilitation, p 324)

B6 Testing ( ‘feeling into’ ) the possibilities
The following exercises may form the basis of a decision :

  • Drawing / writing down the various possibilities on sheets of paper.
  • Placing the sheets on the floor and  stepping on to each one to ‘get the feel’ of each possibility.  Which one(s) feel good?, enhance my mood?, take me forward?.
  • Multisensory Approaches, (Dale Hunter: The Art of Facilitation, p. 200)

B7 Using rounds
Good for checking-in and conflict resolution, Everyone gets a turn to speak. Rounds can either go in a circle or go in ‘popcorn’ style.

  • Structured rounds, pr.1 (Dale Hunter: The Art of Facilitation, p 234)
  • Unstructured rounds, pr.2  (Dale Hunter: The Art of Facilitation, p 236)

B8 Long term thinking
Generational perspective. Use questions like: “What would our great grandchildren think about that?” “Where would we be in 500 years depending on our decision now?”

B9 Sociodrama and Psychodrama
“Under the guidance of a trained practitioner known as the director, this method involves improvisational dramatic action. The script for this drama is written, moment by moment, out of purpose and concerns of an individual, or the group where the method is applied.”
See also: (Australia and Aoterea New Zealand Psychodrama Association)

B10 Sociometry and Sociometrics
Historically known by the work of  J. L. Moreno. Sociometry is traditionally identified with the analysis of data collected by means of the sociometric test. This is a type of questionnaire in which, roughly speaking, each member of a group is asked with which members he would most like to carry out some activity. Sociometry can be used to support decision making.

  • Who are our Peers, pr.4. (Dale Hunter et al : Co-operacy, p.163)

B11 Theory U Methodology. Developed from the work of Otto Scharmer
See : The Presencing Institute:

B12 Pyramid model
The pyramid model for decision making works from the bottom up and may be useful when user workshop groups are large. The group is divided into sub-teams to reach consensus within each sub-team prior to reaching consensus at the total group level.

  • Subgroups, pr.4 (Dale Hunter et al : Zen of Groups, p. 93)

B13 Cause Map:
Cause Mapping an issue can identify areas where it may be useful to dig into more detail to fully understand a problem and can help develop effective solutions. This is done in a brainstorm by asking questions around the root course and mapping it out. Questions are : Why?, Where?, When?, Who? and What?
See: ThinkReliability:

B14 Six Thinking Hats:
This is a design thinking process developed by the De Bono Group.
“Six Thinking Hats is a simple, effective parallel thinking process that helps people be more productive, focused, and mindfully involved. A powerful tool set, which once learned can be applied immediately! You and your team members can learn how to separate thinking into six clear functions and roles. Each thinking role is identified with a colored symbolic ‘thinking hat’. By mentally wearing and switching ‘hats’, you can easily focus or redirect thoughts, the conversation, or the meeting.”

B15 WRAP : A 4 step process developed by the Heath Brothers*
“To make better choices, we must avoid the most common decision-making biases. Being aware of these biases isn’t sufficient to avoid them, but a process can help. The WRAP process can help us make better, bolder decisions.”

W – Widen your options
R –  Reality Test your Assumptions
A – Attain Distance before deciding
P –  Prepare to be wrong


B16 ABCD Model – By Nic Peters*
A – Assess ( What is the problem or decision? )
B – Brainstorm ( What are the possible choices or solutions? )
C – Consequences/Consider ( Consider both positive and negative consequences. Also consider your values. )
D – Decide ( Make a decision and act. )
E – Evaluate ( Evaluate the choices you made and learn from them. )

B17 SMART framework*
“SMART is a mnemonic acronym, giving criteria to guide in the setting of objectives, for example in project management, employee-performance management and personal development. The letters S and M usually mean specific and measurable. The other letters have meant different things to different authors, as described below. Additional letters have been added by some authors.”

B18 Consensus Workshop Method*
“ (That is) the Consensus Workshop Method at its simplest: Context, Brainstorm, Cluster, Name, and Resolve. The Institute of Cultural Affairs created the Consensus Workshop Method through the ‘on the ground’ community development efforts of hundreds of people from the 1950s through the 1990s, coupled with intense ongoing research into how people think, decide, create, innovate, learn, and live.”
See: ( Laura Spencer, Winning through Participation ) and ( Brian Stanfield, The Workshop Book ). Also check the ICA’s website

B19 Dynamic Facilitation Method by consultant Jim Rough*
Collection of data across 4 panels:
Problems ( or Situation Statements, or Inquiries ),
Solutions ( or Possibilities or Options )

B20 Pareto Voting*
Pareto voting is a technique for prioritizing criteria; determining which of the identified needs should be addressed first and selecting which of the strategies or solutions to implement. It is based on the Pareto principle :            “ …approximately 20 percent of the items brainstormed or developed by the group will be chosen by approximately 80 percent of the group’s participants.”

B21 Decision Making Matrix*
A decision making matrix evaluates and prioritizes a list of options. The team first establishes a list of weighted criteria and then evaluates each option against those criteria. This is a variation of the L-shaped matrix.

“The ORID ( Objective, Reflective, Interpretive, Decisional ) method is a form of structured conversation led by a facilitator. It is a method that was developed by the Institute for Cultural Affairs. This tool allows the group having the discussion to clearly identify the relevant facts ( objective ), be aware of their feelings and perceptions surrounding these facts ( reflective ), analyze the facts and feelings, and interpret accordingly the implications ( interpretive ) and then to make decisions intelligently ( objective ).”
See :

Section C: Intuitive Decision-Making methods / techniques

C1 Holonomic focus
Create a group environment of deep listening. Begin to address the issue, listening for ‘resonance’ in the voice of each contributor. For those who see energy, look for bright or glowing energy around individuals suggesting they are ‘tuned In’. Notice body language. Notice when a contribution ‘lands’ in the group and a silent or spoken ‘yes’ emerges. The facilitator’s job is to ‘catch’ these moments.

  • Listen for agreement, pr. 14. (Dale Hunter: The Art of Facilitation, p. 250).

C2 Journalling with intent
Journaling for Self Discovery and informed decision making.
See: See:

C3 Muscle testing
“Based on the concept of internal energy fundamental to traditional Chinese medicine, muscle testing is a noninvasive way of evaluating the body’s imbalances and assessing its needs..”

C5 Dreaming:
To invite people to talk about their dreams during ‘check-ins’ or decision making processes offers the opportunity to access a wider spectrum of the whole person, such as the intuitive or spiritual level.
There exists research and training on how to interpret our dreams to support our decision-making. Here are a few sites that work with that:

C6 Multi Sensory  –  using all the senses (e.g. Jean Houston’s work)

  • Multisensory Approaches, (Dale Hunter: The Art of Facilitation, p. 200)

C8 Choice Compass
An app that measures your heartbeat and helps you decide according to your heart’s reaction.

C9 Kinesiology
Kinesiology encompasses holistic health disciplines which use the gentle art of muscle monitoring to access information about a person’s well being.

C10 Organic Decision Making Method*
Organic decision making is gained from a informal communication system: conversations you overhear in the company bathroom, the body language and tone of voice people use in meetings, what you’ve managed to Google on the Internet. Mechanic decisions are made through a systematic process that’s probably documented.”

Section D:  Philosophical / Political Systems

D1 Cooperacy:
See:  (Dale Hunter : Co-operacy: A New Way of being at Work. Fisher Books) Available on www. See also the Cooperacy Tree diagram on the last page of this document.

D2 Sociocracy:
“Is a system of governance using consent decision-making and an organizational structure based on cybernetic principles. Sociocracy is a whole systems governance method that makes collaboration, self-organization, and distributed authority practical and effective. It is applicable in corporations as well as in neighborhood associations.
Sociocracy requires transparency, inclusiveness, and accountability, the characteristics of any good method of governance.
Combining the values and traditions of democracy with the methods of sociocracy produces a deeper democracy.

D3 Holacracy:
“ The traditional hierarchy is reaching its limits, but ‘flat management’ alternatives lack the rigor needed to run a business effectively. Holacracy is a third-way : it brings structure and discipline to a peer-to-peer workplace.”   See book by Brian J Roberton called Holacracy.

D4 Occupy movement: from Occupy Wall Street movement in USA and elsewhere beginning in New York in 2011. There are various websites including:
For their consensus making method see this Youtube clip by Tim Hartnett.

D5 Decision Making Pyramid
“The objective of the decision-making pyramid is to illustrate that ‘simple’ decisions and choices taken by individuals on a daily basis cumulatively have a global impact, and how vice versa, we need to break down global decisions into smaller frequent sustainability choices at the individual level.”

D6 Behavioural Economics
“ ‘Behavioural economics’, along with the related sub-field, ’behavioural finance’, studies the effects of psychological, social, cognitive, and emotional factors on the economic decisions of individuals and institutions and the consequences for market prices, returns, and the resource allocation.”

D7 Consumer behaviour
“This is the study of individuals, groups, or organizations and the processes they use to select, secure, use, and dispose of products, services, experiences, or ideas to satisfy needs and the impacts that these processes have on the consumer and society.”
See also: Becchetti L. (2015), Vote with your wallet  (Leonardo Becchetti)

D8 Organic Organisations
A term created by Tom Burns and G.M. Stalker in the late 1950s. Organic organizations, unlike mechanistic organizations ( a term also coined by Burns and Stalker), are flexible and value external knowledge.
“…. For an organization to be organic, the participants or workers should have equal levels, with no job descriptions or classifications, and communication should have a hub-network-like form. Organic organisation thrives on the power of personalities and relationships, lack of rigid procedures and communication, and can react quickly and easily to changes in the environment, thus it is said to be the most adaptive form of organization.”
See also: (Burns, T. & Stalker, G. M. (1961), The Management of Innovation, Tavistock, London).

Section E: Preparing for decisionmaking

E1 Who decides?

  • Everyone agrees / one person decide / some people decide / appointed decision maker / decision by indecision: The co-operacy tree ( Dale Hunter: The Art of Facilitation, p. 24 )
  • Why is consensus decision-making important in facilitation? ( Dale Hunter: The Art of Facilitation, p. 22-25 )

Example processes:

  • Consensus decision-making using criteria, pr.15 ( Dale Hunter: The Art of Facilitation, p. 251 )
  • Proactive Consensus, pr.13 ( Dale Hunter: The Art of Facilitation, p. 248 )

E2 Developing consensus  

  • Consensus decision-making, pr. 50 ( Dale Hunter, et al: Co-operacy, p.233 )

E3 Whole person approach

  • The Holistic Approach : Embodied learning  ( Dale Hunter : The Art of Facilitation” p. 198).
  • What are distinctions? ( Dale Hunter et. al : The Essence of Facilitation p.11-16).

E4 Multisensory approaches
See also: (Dale Hunter : The Art of Facilitation p. 200)

E5 Reflection / Meditation
Individual and group reflection and meditation – including visualisation techniques.

E6 Role playing
Simple role play can be helpful in clarifying decisions. Participants have the opportunity to express differing perspectives and ‘feel into’ where these perspectives are coming from.

  • Proposing and counter-proposing, pr. 19 (Dale Hunter: The Art of Facilitation, p.255)

Simple role-plays through to complex enactments ( this is part of a bigger body of work that includes Sociodrama ).

E7 Resolving conflicts in groups (reaching agreements).

  • Fishing for agreement, pr.17 (Dale Hunter : The Art of Facilitation p.253)
  • Bottom Lining, pr. 18 (Dale Hunter et. al : The Art of Facilitation p.254)

E8 Unconscious Bias
People choose and make decisions based on unconscious bias and believe. For example this can relate to Race, Sexuality, Gender, Class etc. When we choose decision making processes this needs to be considered. A good question to ask would be: how can we reduce unconscious bias in the decision making methods that we use?
There are many articles and research on unconscious bias. Here is just one we collected:

E9 Building group alignment

  • Finding and developing the group purpose, pr. 6 and 7 ( Dale Hunter et. al : The Art of Facilitation, p. 240-241)
  • Developing the group culture, pr 8 (Dale Hunter : The Art of Facilitation, p. 243)
  • Building a group vision, pr. 10 (Dale Hunter : The Art of Facilitation, p. 246)
  • Setting Group Objectives, pr. 7 (Dale Hunter et al: Zen of Groups,  page 98)

E10 Agreement on ground rules*
Similar to developing a group culture but can be more prescriptive. A facilitator may choose to suggest some ground rules particularly when there is no time to develop a culture  with the group.
Rodger Schwarz: Ground rules for effective groups:

E11 SWOT Analysis*
SWOT analysis (alternatively SWOT matrix) is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats—and is a structured planning method that evaluates those four elements of a project or business venture.”

E12 Investment Logic Mapping*
“Investment Logic Mapping is a methodology for visualizing on one page, an investment story in enough detail to enable a layperson to understand complex and or significant investment opportunities. … The Department of Treasury & Finance (State Government of Victoria, Australia) has been developing this methodology as part of the Investment Management Standard since 2004.”

More Resources for facilitators at:


Co-operacy Tree from “Co-operacy” by Dale Hunter et al. Published by Fisher Books (1997) p.9.

This document is dated: 11 July 2016.

The document will be updated from time to time and published on this site as well as on the website.

Are you the RIGHT facilitator for this group?


An interesting new completion and celebration process emerges during a ‘wrap’ session for a hard working team. There were ten people in the group with one additional member who ‘skyped in’ for one hour during the day.

I had chosen ‘self and peer assessment’ as the heart of our schedule with warm-ups and energisers as required. To foster a sense of retrospection for the completion of a massive project we started with the processes of paintings and a walking meditation to choose an item from nature to describe our present feelings/space.

Every one was tired. Most people chose rocks, flowers, stones and pinecones.

One person produced a concrete brick, let it thud onto the floor and then collapsed in a heap and said she had no energy.

Obviously the group was ‘not up for’ a rigorous ‘self and peer assessment’ process.

My preparation had included reflecting on a list of the reasons why someone might NOT be the right facilitator for a group. This list included: ‘Do I have the RIGHT process for this group?’ and ‘ Do I know what is BEST for this group’. Answering yes to either of these questions would suggest that I was NOT the right person to be in the facilitator role!!!

The plan had to change. I shared my thoughts and asked the group for suggestions.

We decided to proceed with the self and peer process but only with the affirmative part of it, omitting the ‘what could be done differently’ stage. We created a ‘nest’ in the middle of the room, a large 2metre circular cushion, surrounded by candles. The group members took turns to lie on it and receive massages, songs and affirmations.. Each member had about 15 mins on the cushion.

The group luxuriated in each others affirmations, acknowledgements and healing attention. What manifested was a tailor-made completion, individual and group celebration in one process. Everyone had more energy at the end of the session than they did at the beginning of the day and felt grounded and complete.

Our training at Zenergy is to trust the resources of the group. This brilliant group found a way to complete and celebrate their work together while honouring the energy that was present. It may be necessary at a future time to talk about ‘what could be different’ in the groups next venture, however at this point in time what was required was an acknowledgement of Whole Personhood at it’s Zenergy finest.

by Kāren

Resources: The Art of Facilitation revised edition.
Self and Peer assessment process is on page 27
The list I refer to in the blog is on page 67 in the section called ‘Being with a group’.

Digesting the Darkness

Digesting the Darkness by Dale Hunter 

In a 1 ½ hour workshop at the Australian Facilitators Conference (AFN) in Alice Springs, September 2014, I led a conversation about facilitators’ becoming triggered while working with groups.

This session was supported by facilitator/musician Karen Hunter.

From the workshop promo:

The workshop answers the frequent question at Master Classes, “How do I facilitate when triggered?”

This is done by offering a process template, which can be interpreted in many different ways depending on culture, prior practices, and experience. The process template provides a well -tested generic approach for coming back to full presence within a short timeframe (hopefully within minutes) after being triggered.

The workshop will begin with an introductory activity and then participants will discuss what it means to be triggered (or become negatively activated) while facilitating and the problems that ensue. Examples will be shared by presenter and participants.

Then the generic process “Digesting the Darkness” will be shared and discussed.

We will experiment in pairs, small groups and the large group – playing with and adapting the process to each person’s values, skill sets and cultural preferences.

Workshop Process

The workshop began with my admission that I do get triggered when facilitating even though I have been facilitating for 30 years. I gave an example and then asked the 40 or so participants to share in 3’s their experiences of being triggered. There was a very lively discussion for 15-20 minutes and the sharing with the whole group indicated a sense of relief that we could talk about this aspect of facilitation and its “normality”.

The small groups of 3 then shared their strategies for becoming recentered / regrounded. Again there was a real sense of relief and much interest in one another’s input. Some of these strategies were shared in the large group.

I then shared a template, which had been developed at a Zenergy Master Class in 2013 called Digesting the Darkness.

Digesting the Darkness poster
This is the poster created in a Zenergy Global Masterclass (2013) to illustrate this process.

 Digesting the Darkness
 Process Steps

Trigger:   The facilitator becomes “triggered” (emotionally activated).

React:   The beginnings of emotion (e.g. anger, fear, grief, or other “upset”) occur.

Notice:   The facilitator notices the reaction in the light of their own awareness.

Pause: The facilitator presses their internal pause button on their reaction.

Ground: The facilitator practices their own version of a grounding/ centering process (such as connecting with the body and breath, slowing and deepening breathing: and grounding themselves (feeling feet on the earth and connecting/ feeling into the earth).

Connect: The facilitator connects with the group (places their attention back on the whole group) and reconnects consciously with the group purpose. Standing in the group purpose and being grounded the facilitator continues to work with the group in a safe and inclusive way.

There is (as always) the very important need to debrief after the facilitation with a co-facilitator, peer, or mentor and attend to any residual emotions.

The big take out from the workshop for me was the relief of facilitators in realizing that they/we were all normal and that getting triggered can be an everyday occurrence for facilitators. Getting triggered is not the problem. The problem is how we can grow our awareness to notice quickly when we are triggered, get regrounded and reconnected with the group purpose and so lessen the likelihood of acting out in the group. Do remember, too, that it is crucial to have an explicit group purpose.

Some Forms of Collective Intelligence

Collective Intelligence is now referred to in fields as diverse as revelation and altered states; effective group, team and organisational work; and also intelligence gathering for security purposes. How to make sense of all of this? In my efforts to understand the diversity of the collective intelligence field (s) – I have been googling away – and within the confusion came across a really great blog

The following is an abridged reblog from an entry on this blog.

This particular blog piece references the work of Tom Atlee
See also for books including
“The Tao of Democracy: Using co-intelligence to create a world that works for all”.

Tom Atlee has been working in this field of collective intelligence for a long time. I read Tao of Democracy (2002) quite a few years ago and have it in my library. When I first read this book I found Tom’s thinking very helpful in beginning to clarify and articulate what happens when groups of people with a common purpose start to think, be and flow together in a way often referred to as group synergy (when 1+1+1+ = more than 3).

In the blog above Tom Atlee says

I have lately been receiving a lot of information on forms of and approaches to collective intelligence that do not fit within models I’ve been working with for the last fifteen years (that are largely deliberative). I am no expert on these other approaches, but encountering them has led me to brainstorm an annotated list of different forms to cover what I’ve seen so far.

I feel certain my list is not complete and that there are other ways of differentiating forms of collective intelligence, which I’d love to hear about. I intend this initial listing to be temporarily clarifying and stimulating and, hopefully, to trigger people to come up with new ways to map this terrain that better lay the groundwork for an evolving general theory of collective intelligence that embraces all variations.

Note that not all collective capacities are “intelligence.” Occasionally CI overlaps with other capacities like collective consciousness or “power-with” — capacities that can be characterized by collective stupidity OR collective intelligence. Furthermore, some dimensions of collective intelligence, like “flow,” have collectively stupid manifestations (mobs) as well as collectively intelligent ones (high functioning teams). I will try to navigate these distinctions creatively here, but the reader should keep them in mind.

Note also that some phenomena that I have not included here could conceivably be included in this list. For example, are “networks” an intrinsic form of CI, or are they a pattern useful in developing CI? I have chosen the later categorization, but people more familiar with networks may be able to make a case for them as a distinct form of CI.

Some Forms of Collective Intelligence

REFLECTIVE (dialogic) CI – People think together, using dialogue and deliberation. They find and share information, critique logic and assumptions, explore implications, create solutions and mental models together. Their diversity, used well, helps them overcome blind spots, ignorance, and stuckness. They see a bigger, more complete picture with more complexity and nuance, and develop better outcomes than they could alone. Most of this can be readily explained in terms of cognitive synergies among the participants.

STRUCTURAL (systemic) CI – Social systems are built that support intelligent behaviors on the part of the system as a whole and/or all its members. For example, the Bill of Rights supports creativity, free flow of information, and maintenance of diversity — all of which support collective intelligence. Quality of Life indicators guide national economic activity more intelligently than the wholly monetized Gross Domestic Product statistic. Chairs placed in circles support equity and sharing in ways impeded by chairs placed in rows.

EVOLUTIONARY (learning-based) CI – Organisms, species, ecosystems, and cultures are made of patterns of relationship that have “worked” over long periods. These co-evolved, built-in success-patterns contain embedded wisdom often used automatically, but which are also available for analysis and deeper learning. We can look at them as manifestations of learning — or perhaps of “evolving coherence.” Evolving coherence is perhaps most consciously pursued in the careful, grounded, ongoing collective inquiries of science, but we can also find it in any shared learning effort, an endeavor institutionalized in academia. Evolving coherence is also characteristic of morphogenic fields — the living habit-fields of life which arise from our collective experience and shape our consciousness and behaviors. Any patterns evolved (understandings learned) become part of the informational CI, below.

INFORMATIONAL (communication-based) CI – The flow of information through communication channels and the widespread gathering and persistent availability of information in databases (including libraries, newspapers, etc., as well as the Web — and morphogenic fields) means that knowledge that is created or recorded in one place and time is available to others in other places and times. Universal access to information informs the activities of diverse, dispersed people beyond their individual data-gathering capacities. In society, this form of collective intelligence has been aided in the last century by telecommunications and computer technologies, as it was centuries ago by the invention of printing. To a large degree, the informational sea we live in empowers the routine collective intelligence of our society or subculture. In fact, the complexity of modern society makes most information-gathering intrinsically collective (through scientists, statistical enterprises, journalism, etc.); any given individual simply cannot find it all out. Furthermore, our culture’s informational, narrative and morphogenic fields shape our awareness and behavior without our even knowing it. The dark side of the informational mode is the sea of unproven assertions and unexamined assumptions we experience as fact that, being unexamined, may be false or go out of date and — resisting change (evolutionary CI) — become the source of collective stupidity.

NOETIC (spiritual or consciousness-based) CI – Certain realms of human experience and cosmic reality are accessible primarily through altered/higher states of consciousness or esoteric practices. Psychic phenomena, the Akashic Record, the collective unconscious, group consciousness, the Maharishi effect, the Universal Mind, the Authentic Self, etc., all involve noetic realities with collective dimensions which offer insight, guidance, energy or power to those who can tap them. All these phenomena are grounded in “consciousness,” so we need to remember that “intelligence” is the capacity to learn new things and solve challenging problems. So the term “collective intelligence” may be most appropriately applied to the noetic mode when these higher/deeper realms are accessed by a group together such that the group’s subsequent understanding and activity are demonstrably intelligent. The noetic realm tends to be anchored in subjective experience, although there is growing objective evidence for various noetic phenomena. The noetic experience of CI is one of “accessing” or “attuning to” a pre-existing higher intelligence or awareness, rather than of co-creating a new emergent capacity through group synergy (as is the case in the reflective mode).

FLOW (mutual attunement-based) CI – When the boundaries between individuals vanish, become permeable, or fade into relationship or shared enterprise, a collective can think, feel, respond and act as one entity. This “group magic” is exemplified by — and experienced in — intense dialogue groups, high-functioning human teams and non-human collectives like flocks of birds. Basic forms of flow or flocking behavior are achieved by individuals following simple rules about their relationship to those around them, setting aside independence in the realms covered by the rules. This (flow, flocking behavior) happens even when the individuals are computer-generated agents like “boids” or “cellular automata.” More complex, creative forms of flow occur when conscious, distinct individuals are so attuned to each other that they can innovate and express their uniqueness in thoroughly appropriate/embedded ways, as with jazz improvisation. Flow may also be associated with mobs, groupthink and other dysfunctional collectives in which individuality, itself, is stifled or dissolved. But for our purposes the term collective intelligence is reserved for collective cognitive capacity and behavior that is highly functional. Flow is often a dimension of that. Extreme forms of flow manifest as mind-meld and collective consciousness (the global version of which de Chardin called The Omega Point) that may or may not be collectively intelligent. But core individuality is a resource for collective intelligence, providing diversity and creative energy. So flow can be understood as dissolving the boundaries, barriers and embattledness of individualism (ego) in order to better tap the powerful essence of individuality (true uniqueness and individual capacity) in the context of collective activity.

STATISTICAL (crowd-oriented) CI – In the presence of a goal, intention, inquiry or direction — and no skewing factors (e.g., deceit) — a high enough number of individuals will generate a remarkable level of collective problem-solving or predictive power, even in the absence of communication among them. This has been demonstrated in many cases of mass guessing, where the average guessed solution has proven superior to over 90% of the individual guesses. This can also be seen in ants whose almost random foraging is capable of rapidly finding food that can then be collectively accessed in very focused ways. Computer-generated entities also demonstrate this statistical intelligence: When the first-run-through maze-paths of about two dozen intelligent agents are superimposed over each other, the plot of the majority decision at each turn of the maze will often be a direct path through the maze — one that was not followed by any single agent. This form of collective intelligence — combined (often implicitly) with structural and other forms — is what some term “market intelligence,” Adam Smith’s invisible hand.

RELEVATIONAL (emergence-based) CI – “Relevation” is a term coined by quantum physicist and dialogue innovator David Bohm. It names the dynamic through which phenomena emerge (elevate) from potentiality (Bohm’s “implicate order”) into actuality (Bohm’s “explicate order”) by reason of their relevance to existing reality. Our inquiries and intentions can attract insights and solutions, often seemingly “out of nowhere.” As a form of collective intelligence this may be most vividly displayed by one person saying something and another person mis-hearing it in a way that provides them with some answer or insight. The answer, which was never spoken, relevated out of the space between them, drawn into existence by the second person’s desire to know that answer.


I find these categories helpful and would really like to hear from you reading this what your thoughts are and how I/we can better understand this developing field.


What does Collective intelligence mean to me / you / us?


Notes from Workshop at Macquarie University, Sydney at the Australasian Facilitators Network (AFN) Conference, 5/6 December.

Purpose – To explore / inquire into accelerating collective intelligence through the use of energy and subtle capacities.

Culture  agreement – Personal stories stay in the room. Suspend judgement and disbelief. Speak from “I”.

Question / inquiry

What does Collective intelligence mean to me / you / us?

In small groups. Individual reflections written on circles:

Multiple intelligences –spiritual, emotional, music, social, visual, spatial, logical, and multiple perspectives.
My ability to be in the story in a non – judgmental and positive way to allow the collective nature of the US to exist and grow and transform.
Sharing, exploring, supporting, gathering.
What we don’t know that we know we are. Unconscious communication that which we cannot measure or see which is energy beyond our practical awareness. Unconscious decision making, universal.
Rupert Sheldrake – morphic field. A flock of birds. Carl Jung’s collective inconscious. Positive: indigenous wisdom, harmony. Negative: entangled. Connecting through vibration.
Distilling z collective intelligence requires a safe space where people can speak and be heard truthfully.
What is possible with this group? Not just positive – collective culture – for good, for ill.
“Safety”. Safe to be me. Safe to be you. Safe to be us.
Co-creation of strengths for a common good or more effective/ workable future.
Exploring the field of the group. Uncover the hidden. Use the “Feel” to access the “field”.
Practical level. Facilitate “Team”. Together, Everyone, Achieves, More. Listening, questioning.
Unconscious attraction. Aware/ unaware. Distinguish groupthink. Ancient wisdom. Collective Wisdom, Collective Folly. Bubbles – financial lemmings.
Tapping into Universal Intelligence  / Energy. Grounding, universal energy. As a facilitator we can be a lightning rod. How do I source the universal energy to keep up my energy levels as a facilitator? How to use without scaring? What is it? Crossovers.
Collective intelligence; metaphysical/ state of dreams; Unconscious attraction; unconscious becomes conscious form of expression and understanding; creating meaning of shared expression; intelligence beyond the human frame; momentum of intention.
*    Synchronicity of unconscious attraction – sharing, growing, learning and empowering. Internet, ancient libraries, pyramids, Carl Jung, Dreams, Breakthroughs, inventions. Philosophy, healing, medicine. Teaching counseling, facilitating. What is your voice? What is your intention? This leads you. Channeling your time, focus and energy. Different voices join together based on shared joint intentions

Questions / inquiry in small groups

What subtle capacities e.g., working with energy, intuition, precognition, psychic abilities, do you have? That others you know have? That you or others use in your groups / organizations? Is it safe to explore this now, in your facilitation and other work?

Courageous connectedness to “be”
Connecting to Alpha state: Emotions Feelings Situations
Stretched – New beginnings
OCEAN Organizational Constellation Effective Analysis of Networks. We all have an inner image of what is happening around us. It can be externalized. Through this we have access to see invisible dynamic.
Energetic healing. Sensing. Intuition. Knowing. Opening the heart. Accessing internal enquiry. Predictive aids, e.g. Runes, cards. Meditation. Hypnosis. Stillness / sanctuary. Higher Self / Guides.
What does it mean to me / us? Subtle energy of collective intelligence
Acceptance Awareness Al sorts Many many kinds of capacities
Finding allowing a space to develop for intelligence to arise
Openness / sensitivity How to cultivate? Kinesthetic vs. auditory vs. visual. Entertain the possibility.
Business networking!
Being “spoken” to by messengers / animals One being open to “answers” from out environment.
Fear This new illogical thing – of your own ability
“The Secret” – I will see it when I believe it!  How can you (train) yourself to develop your subtle capacities?
No judgment – “hocus pokes”

How to use the subtle skills in group context?

“Grounding” – non threatening
Metaphor, language or imagery, story

Books referred to:
Alan Briskin: Collective Wisdom: Collective Folly
Dean Radin: Entangled Minds
Dean Radin: Supernormal

Participants at the workshop were invited to contribute to this blog and keep the inquiry alive.

Collective Intelligence and Subtle Capacities

Dear friends and colleagues,

I have been thinking of starting this blog for a while. Now my daughter Karen Hunter  has been so kind to set it up I will start a conversation or two and trust that readers will add to it.

My commitment is to “whole people co-operating in a sustainable world” and I see this blog as one way of engaging others, particularly group facilitators, in conversations that can enhance the way we work with groups and organisations.

In this conversation I want to bring together two topic areas that can inform one another. These topics are collective intelligence and what I will call subtle capacities or supernormal capacities. (There is a background paper on this site introducing the topic of collective intelligence).

As a group facilitator and facilitator educator, I observe collective intelligence at work. A facilitator works with collective intelligence as a matter of course. We know that the wisdom is in the group and not only the individual. We work to tap into synergy to accelerate and grow a group’s performance. Research is now backing up the claim that collective intelligence is real and not related to the individual intelligence of group members (refer background paper and Anita Woolley

In addition, I have observed people in groups demonstrating subtle capacities of many different kinds. What I am referring to are people’s ability to sense and/or see energy and energy patterns in individuals, groups and in nature (trees, plants, birds and animals). There is also the capacity to envision, dream or imagine the future including “seeing with an inner eye”; knowing what is about to happen (precognition) or what others are thinking, even at a distance; intuitive hunches or “hits” about all kinds of things; and more. Sometimes these capacities are termed psychic or psi. Scientist Dean Radin works in this area at the Institute of Noetic Science (IONS) and his books “Entangled Minds” and “Supernormal” are very imformative

These capacities seem to be unevenly spread among individuals. Some people have none, one, a few, or many subtle capacities and as already said they come in many forms.

It seems to me that these two areas, subtle capacities and collective intelligence have a lot of promise for group facilitators especially those already working in an holistic way. I am thinking that it could be time to bring this conversation into the mainstream arena, at least among group facilitators.

If some people who have subtle capacities they are willing to share, they could potentially add to the collective intelligence of a group and enhance group outcomes. For this to happen however, facilitators will need to create safe spaces for people to share their subtle information and ensure that this new input is recognised as information (not the whole truth) to be considered alongside other conventional information and data.

At the Australasian Facilitators Network Conference (AFN) at Macquarie University 4-6 December, 2013, I am leading a workshop to discuss this topic.

I will post a summary of our discussion and also encourage those attending the workshop to contribute here on this blog as well.

Thanks for listening,