Foresight Nanotech Institute Logo
Image of nano

Foresight "Group Genius" Weekend

Leaping the Abyss:

Putting Group Genius to Work


Gayle Pergamit and Chris Peterson

knOwhere Press, 1997

Table of Contents


"For what can the teeming molecules that hustled themselves into self-reproducing metabolisms, the cells coordinating their behaviors to form multicelled organisms, the ecosystems, and even economic and political systems have in common? The wonderful possibility, to be held as a working hypothesis, bold but fragile, is that on many fronts, life evolves toward a regime that is poised between order and chaos. The evocative phrase that points to this working hypothesis is this: life exists at the edge of chaos. . . Networks in the regime near the edge of chaos--this compromise between order and surprise--appear best able to coordinate complex activities and best able to evolve as well."

-- Stuart Kauffman, At Home in the Universe



CHAPTER I: Three Days: Collaborating at the Edge of Chaos

compressing time to action and generating orders of magnitude returns. . . bringing collaboration out of conflict and a scarcity mentality. . . the structure must evolve because structure wins. . . you must start with the current "DNA" and go from there

CHAPTER II: Gathering Genius

everything speaks. . . setting the tone in the music of our lives and our work. . . folding many different perspectives and individuals together in the work. . . employing a process to focus as much data and energy as possible. . . creating a neutral space for discovery and interaction

CHAPTER III: Freeing Time and Attention

shattering the limitations we accept about time. . . employing techniques to provide the focus and discipline necessary for breakthrough creativity. . . balance intensity, immersion, concentration, attention, rhythm over time. . . executing multiple cycles of the creative process leads to geometrically increasing returns

CHAPTER IV: Prospecting at the Edge

learning to scan individually and in teams. . . stretching mental muscles. . . employing a comprehensive toolkit instead of looking for the silver bullet. . . you can't drive change and still be careful. . . what it means to be in a design process

CHAPTER V: Mapping the Terrain

the difference between scanning and planning. . . employing the first half of the creative process for learning so that good decisions can be made in the second half. . . the importance of managing knowledge. . . increasing the flow of the data stream. . . using scanning to outframe the situation

CHAPTER VI: The Architecture of Collaboration

using changes in the physical environment as aids in making mental leaps and emotional shifts. . . managing the environment so that people become naturally and spontaneously creative, productive and cooperative

CHAPTER VII: Facing the Abyss

creating the game. . . engendering collaboration. . . the discipline of the change agent. . . the role of the facilitator. . . embracing the risk of starting with a blank piece of paper. . . asking the right questions. . . living with uncertainty, ambiguity, and paradox. . . embracing discomfort as a precursor to fundamental change. . . solving problems instead of assuaging conditions. . . getting out of the box by being a kid again

CHAPTER VIII: Simplify by Increasing Complexity

employing complex metaphors to illuminate complicated problems. . . using indirect and non-linear approaches to understanding complex systems. . . understanding that the problem is so complex that it requires the consideration of hundreds of options instead of just a few

CHAPTER IX: Inventing the Problem

following the process of iteration: design, test and redesign. . . avoiding a limited solution set. . . broadening the definition of the problem. . . building models

CHAPTER X: Magic Behind the Scenes

the science and art of facilitating the creative process. . . flocking and swarming. . . exemplifying the behavior you want to see established. . . supporting the creative process by being invisible. . . being in the game as a collaborator, never an observer. . .

CHAPTER XI: Tactical Planning at Warp Speed

making deep changes; avoid exhausting yourself in the little changes. . . the art of assembling the high performing team. . . envisioning the preferred future state and then bringing a little of the future back to here every day

CHAPTER XII: Designing the Ride

embracing wholeness in the process: there is no single point or event that triggers the solution to precipitate. . . creating a balance between scripting and improvisation. . . building a design for an event instead of an agenda. . . using the scan focus act model as a template for designing a session

CHAPTER XIII: Giving up the Illusion of Control

how to sponsor a DesignShop. . . overcoming the fear of embracing true collaboration without exerting control. . . letting the vision, plan and the implementation emerge

CHAPTER XIV: "The Future is Rational Only in Hindsight"

how to bring the results of a DesignShop back home. . . structure wins. . . determining which structures to change in order to redirect and loosen the hold of the status quo


the assumptions underlying collaboration, creativity, planning, and the emergence of enterprise




Donate Now


Foresight Programs

Join Now


Home About Foresight Blog News & Events Roadmap About Nanotechnology Resources Facebook Contact Privacy Policy

Foresight materials on the Web are ©1986–2014 Foresight Institute. All rights reserved. Legal Notices.

Web site development by Netconcepts. Email marketing by gravityMail. Maintained by James B. Lewis Enterprises.