Power of the Group

I’ve often marveled at the synchronicities of life—especially those seemingly random events that spring from the relationships we foster for mutual support. There is an alchemy present in these relationships—as the understanding of ourselves, each other and our opportunities together transforms into gold over the years.

Much of the work that I do with clients involves “encouraging” this sort of synchronicity—i.e. making sure that they’re in contact with people already doing the things they’re interested in learning or doing, or, perhaps more importantly, people doing interesting things that may not be at all related, but are inspiring nonetheless. Nothing—and I mean nothing—can replace opening up and allowing others to participate in your life and development.  In the corporate realm, this may be something as simple as setting regular development conversations with colleagues (and I’m not talking about appraisal conversations here), or it may be participating in a community of practice that discusses challenging business issues (think Vistage, Aspen Institute, etc). In any realm, one can create an informal group that has as its focus supporting the aspirations of one another—a group focused on cheering and prodding you on, asking you the tough questions, reminding you of your own capacity when it’s so easily forgotten. I participate in one such group formed years ago in my living room and still count it among one of my most important support systems. I often sit in wonder at the relationships created, the lives enriched and the once-far-fetched dreams achieved.

Turns out that the idea of bumping into each other and engaging in supportive, but critical debate about our ideas is not so wrong headed. I was reminded of this while enjoying Jonah Lehrer’s article on “Group Think: The Brainstorming Myth.”  Lehrer is a fantastic science writer (and a study in career development in his own right). In this article, he shakes up prevalent notions of how our ideas evolve and how we really create and innovate (hint: it’s less about brainstorming methods ala BBDO/IDEO and more about bumping into one another). Enjoy especially the wisdom of Kellogg faculty in the article.