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Bringing the Overview Effect Down to Earth

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The primary issue for all organizations is identity. For the most part, people hold onto their individual identities as a necessity for their survival. They contrast this individual identity against that of the larger whole. When individuals are successfully integrated into small teams, they then contrast the team against the larger organization or other teams. This tendency leads to “turf wars” and failure to get the most out of everyone. Leaders too often seek local intelligence rather than “Collective Intelligence.” By contrast, the Institute for Co-Intelligence says the following:

Collective intelligence is the intelligence of a collective which arises from one or more sources… Intelligence is variously defined as ‘the capacity to acquire and apply knowledge,’ ‘the ability to effectively adapt,’ or simply ‘the ability to solve problems.’ (3)

In general, institutional intention to develop collective intelligence is rare because their leaders have not heard of it. They know they have a problem, but they have no concept of a solution. And all too often, bureaucracies turn the natural energy of people away from collective intelligence and toward individual survival.

All of these characteristics of organizations reflect the fact that on the surface of our planet, we see a great deal of diversity or chaos, depending on how it is interpreted. The wonder of the Overview Effect is that some 500 plus people have now risen above the surface, and seen that for all the apparent disjointedness of the parts below, it suddenly reveals itself as a beautiful whole.  (4)

The Overview Effect Points to Co-Intelligence

The Overview Effect points directly to the existence of collective intelligence. In one of the authors’ books on this subject, The Overview Effect describes a “planetary overview system” that includes the physical system we call Earth, the human system we call humanity, and the global technological system, technos. (5)

An overview framework creates the infrastructure for co-intelligence not only on the planet itself but also in all organizations that are a part of it. The Overview Effect creates the awareness that it can be brought into existence on the Earth, and then to the various parts of the global human system, such as companies, universities, and governments.

Our task now is to bring the Overview Effect “down to earth” so that leaders, managers, and participants in a system can experience the overview and masterful performance at the same time. This happens through a designed mix of work relevant experiments, education, and individual practices that bring out collective intelligence and release participants’ holding onto the boundaries of what they already know. In other words, these organizational systems need to see themselves as overview systems.

We believe the first step lies in learning four distinctions that are inherent in the astronaut experience of the Overview Effect and practicing them as they apply to the context of one’s own work and life.

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