Bees Share a Much Higher Collective Intelligence

As I participate in conversations of change with energetic, engaged people seeking to resolve complex issues, I am increasingly convinced that building the capacity for change is an inner game. A game that can only be won through collective intelligence.

“Bees may be organized by a much higher
collective intelligence yet they have no
option to change their pattern of organizing.
Humans, unlike any other species on earth,
can break the patterns of the past and create
new patterns”. Otto Sharmer

We humans have the option to shift that inner place from which we operate.

If we shift our intention to producing results that benefit everyone rather than preferentially for ourselves, our social group, our own business or organization, we open up to the possibility of give and take for the good of the whole.

If we can let go of certainty and resolve, even when we feel strongly about the outcome, conversations expand and we can explore a more equitable future.

If we can put ourselves in a ‘holding pattern’, slowing down or suspending judgement, we may notice that it’s the same old, same old. We repeatedly respond using old patterns. Patterns that are firmly established and reinforced by past experience and people just like us, our own echo chambers.

What if we look with fresh eyes and let go of patterns that may be reinforcing the status quo? We humans can shift, rethink and redevelop our capacity for complex change. To do so is a journey of self-awareness, a process of gathering in new circles and using our collective intelligence to create new patterns of organizing for a better future.

What Has 2021 Taught Us?

A year ago, I wrote that 2021 was going to be a ‘bounce back’ year. The rollover of a new year is full of hope and it really felt like a reset was about to happen. Here we are at the beginning of 2022 and while we have rebounded, in many ways our challenges seem quite the same.

According to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the late Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in their collaboration and reflection resulting in The Book of Joy, ‘we learn when something happens to test us’. What have we learned?

This ongoing global pandemic does have a way of shifting our perspective from the mundane to reflecting on issues of deeper complexity and consequence. We are presented with a unique opportunity to transform ourselves and our connection with others for greater benefit. Yet wherever we look, we see the push and pull of conflicting scenarios playing out right in front of us.

Today’s vantage point gives us a much clearer view of our common humanity. Across the globe we confront similar challenges. For the better part of the last few years, worldwide, we have measured and recounted, analysed and acted on similar data and findings. We’ve shared experiences of scientific, political, psychological, sociological and economic impact and fallout. While we share a common humanity, personal experiences have varied widely with devastating impact for some and inconvenience or mild disruption for others.

We march and protest, emphasizing our differences WHILE we collaborate and confer to achieve solutions for the common good. Collaboration across the world has led to vaccine production within time frames not previously contemplated. Yet, inequitable vaccine accessibility and distribution shines a light on global injustice.

The emphasis on moving from individualistic thinking to the ‘good of the whole’ has advanced to a central question for discussion and debate around the dinner table. Perspectives are increasingly challenged. Over the past few years, some of us enjoyed time to focus more on ourselves, to get more in touch with our own needs and wants. As the potential for continued isolation stretches out into yet another year, one can’t help but hear this little voice reminding us that connection to others is what gets us through. And while we’re all challenged to be resilient, we know it’s much easier to be resilient where well being is supported and resources are available.

These past few years we’ve lost and we’ve gained. We’ve thrived and suffered. But, let’s not let negativity or cynicism steal our energy or resolve. The stage may be set for positive transitions not even contemplated in less disruptive times.

We may have glimpsed the positive impact of our own resolve. We’ve maybe seen and experienced a few ‘bests’ that could lead to better places. We’ve learned to function amid great uncertainty. We’ve seen and experienced the power of collaboration. We’ve learned to think beyond simplistic solutions, focusing on more insightful ways to address complex issues and challenges. We are more aware that polarity thinking – either black or white – just holds us back. We have a heightened sense of the fragility and interconnectedness of our systems and the great need to take care of our world and each other.

We’ve learned we can move with the world. New mindsets show us how to adapt. We can hold on to our strengths and let go of the things that may have worked well in the past, but are just not a good fit for a changing world.

“No dark fate determines the future. We do. Each day and each moment, we are able to create and re-create our lives and the quality of human life on our planet”. His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Archbischop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams The Book of Joy Lasting Happiness in a Changing World.

2021 is a ‘BOUNCE BACK’ Year

We made it! 2020 is a wrap! Who knew we’d learn so much about things like viruses, vaccines or herd immunity. The journey of 2020 has definitely been one of upheaval, a continuous emotional roller coaster. We can probably all relate to the emotional upheavals of the past year. There has been denial, certainly anger, likely bargaining, and if we’ve become a bit fixated with COVID stats and news reports, we may have felt depression creeping in. For me, most certainly some morose moods and lapses of energy. And, along with that, if at times begrudgingly and with some resignation, there’s been acceptance of the challenges of 2020.

The December 31st roll over of the calendar shifts the view to new hope for 2021. With 2020 in the rear-view mirror, you’ve probably seen the quote: “don’t look back, we’re not going that way” (author Marcia Wallace).  It seems a perfect time to shed the shortcomings of 2020. But, let’s shift that view of “don’t look back” just a bit. Look back enough to consider letting go of old habits or patterns that just won’t serve us well going forward. The stressors of the past year may have brought to light long standing patterns we’re better off without. Or, there may be things that have served us well in the past, but are just not a good fit for the changed world of 2021.

Let’s also look back to consider the ‘ups’ of the roller coaster ride of 2020. Let’s find our strengths. What were the things that helped us persevere? What kept us connected to our purpose and well-being? When did we experience optimism, satisfaction and joy?

2020 has given us pause to notice the significant and most important things in our own lives and a chance to balance our needs with a focus on the common good. There have been strengths to tap into, habits to revisit and hold on to and innovation borne of necessity and adaptation. Here were some of the highlights for me:

  • Reach out to others. We are social beings, all in need of belonging. Find ways to reach past the isolation of narrowed social events or ‘lock down’ to connect with others, 
  • Be kind, “kindness is not only contagious, it is good for the heart, slows ageing, makes us happier and improves relationships” (author, former pharmaceutical scientist Dr. David Hamilton),  
  • Learn to sit with others who hold opposing views and still be kind. Is it just me or did “for’ and ‘against’ take on a new status this past year? We stress diversity and inclusion, yet differences, rivalry, contrarians often provoke judgement rather than thoughtful consideration. Let’s move beyond influencing techniques designed to change or sway people to our way of thinking, beyond derision or heated debate TO curiosity and interest in what others’ have to offer, collaboration and respectful, peaceful dialogue,   
  • Consider the needs of others. In an individualistic, competitive world, we can spend much time seeking to maintain or improve our own position or status. Dewitt Jones, professional photographer, writer and public speaker, shares it beautifully when he says: “Strive to be, not just the best in the world, but the best for the world”, and
  • Be positive. Despite hardship, adversity and loss, lean into the things that bring you joy and gratitude. Setbacks are temporary. Struggles are part of life and learning. Count your blessings, notice your strengths, learn new skills and don’t be too hard on yourself.    

“The times of greatest disruption can produce the times of greatest change” (adapted from Deepak Chopra). 2020 has been disruptive. It has also been a time for introspection, change and resilience.  2021 presents the opportunity to shift our views, to bounce back with hope and optimism and to shape the future with new insight.