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