Millions of people migrate every year from rural to urban areas. At a time when most cities around the world are projected to experience exponential growth (United Nations, 2015), more work is needed to understand how the city environment influences happiness and health across the lifespan (see recent journal article here). The population of the world is growing, cities are getting bigger, and the ongoing environmental design challenges are immense. If we’re going to live in a city for the whole of our life—from childhood to old age—along with millions of other people, we need to think very carefully about how we design our cities.
This series of blog posts is about collective intelligence and teams. We have applied John Warfield’s collective intelligence methods in a variety of projects. In parallel, we have sought to build upon John Warfield’s vision for systems science by describing how collective intelligence methods can be embedded within an educational support structure. More recently, I have been thinking about the principle of freedom as non-domination and how it can be used to inform both structural and relational design choices that facilitate more impactful collective intelligence work on a larger scale. My next blog post will focus on the application of collective intelligence to the design of technology supporting participatory democracy.
Facilitating team communication and problem solving is challenging, but it is hugely important and incredibly rewarding. Successful teams not only produce high quality outcomes, the social processes that teams use in carrying out their work can enhance members’ capability to work together interdependently in the future, and the team experience itself can also contribute positively to the learning and personal wellbeing of individual team members (Hackman & Woolley, 2008).
Warfield notes that understanding societal problems always involves an effort to identify how problems in the problem situation interact. This requirement to understand the situation is the same for societal problems that operate on a large scale, such as international peace keeping or national well-being, and for societal problems that operate on an apparently smaller scale, such as improving education in a local school. As such, when a team comes together in an effort to resolve a societal problem, effort is needed to understand the set of problems that interact in the problem situation, and the nature of these interactions.
Embracing the principle and practice of freedom as non-domination marks the beginning of a learning process (Pettit, 2014). As noted previously, freedom as non-domination implies that people are empowered and have control over their direction in life, both as individuals and as part of a team. Theory and research in psychology highlights the importance of being in control.
If we wish to build an applied social science grounded in the principles and practice of collective intelligence, then we need to understand team communication.
As noted in Part 1, in a more ideal world, policymakers would be included in the team that engages in intelligence analysis of societal problems, much like citizens would be involved more directly in policymaking. Multiple interacting teams, coordinating the collective intelligence of the population, would be more consistent with the principle of freedom as non-domination (Pettit, 2014). The ideal of freedom as non-domination implies that citizens are granted a status that guards them against private power or dominium and public power or imperium. In order to guard themselves against private power or dominium and ensure social justice in the horizontal relations between citizens, the state must treat everyone as equals in providing for their freedom as non-domination, identify a broad set of basic liberties, and provide citizens with the resources and protections necessary to enjoy freedom in the exercise of those liberties.
‘The highest activity a human being can attain is learning for understanding, because to understand is to be free.’ – Baruch Spinoza, Ethics
“Medicine is a social science and politics is nothing else but medicine on a large scale”–Rudolf Virchow
Perhaps the greatest challenge we face in the modern world is the challenge of effective collaboration. In social, political, business and educational settings, working groups often fail to solve complex problems because their method of collaborative problem solving is ineffective. Decades of research in social psychology and cognitive science highlight the many limitations of group problem solving, including the tendency to focus on a limited set of ideas, select ideas based on biased ‘rules of thumb’, and failure to build trust, consensus and collective vision. We have developed a new software tool that helps groups to structure the many and varied ideas that are often generated when a group comes together to consider solutions to problems.