The Commission for Group Dynamics in Assemblies of the Puerta del Sol Protest Camp (Madrid) defined collective thinking as follows:
Collective Thinking is an essential part of our movement. To our understanding, Collective Thinking is diametrically opposed to the kind of thinking propounded by the present system. This makes it difficult to assimilate and apply. Time is needed, as it involves a long process. When faced with a decision, the normal response of two people with differing opinions tends to be confrontational. They each defend their opinions with the aim of convincing their opponent, until their opinion has won or, at most, a compromise has been reached.
The aim of Collective Thinking, on the other hand, is to construct. That is to say, two people with differing ideas work together to build something new. The onus is therefore not on my idea or yours; rather it is the notion that two ideas together will produce something new, something that neither of us had envisaged beforehand. This focus requires of us that we actively listen, rather than merely be preoccupied with preparing our response.
Collective Thinking is born when we understand that all opinions, be these opinions our own or others’, need to be considered when generating consensus and that an idea, once it has been constructed indirectly, can transform us.
Those quotes come from the Quick Guide on Group Dynamics in People’s Assemblies published by “Take the Square” group born from the demonstration in May of 2011 in Madrid, based on the ideals of inclusiveness, collective intelligence, respect, non-violence and shared decision-making.
A popular US-based blog, the Daily Kos, commented on the text above, as follows:
One way to think of this might be to consider the polls we use here on Daily Kos. Someone puts up choices and we have to choose one. The one with the most votes is the winner. I often struggle with polls and multiple choice tests because the answer I would choose is almost never there. In a collective thinking model, you would never present such a poll. You might present a list of options, but instead of choosing one of them you would work together to combine or amend the list into a singular answer which reflected the concerns and ideas of everyone. You’d get to an answer which everyone could live with and would consent to. It’s highly likely that the resulting answer would not look like anything on that original list of choices.
In competitive thinking, we rely on individuals or small organizations to formulate solutions and we either go with them or we reject them and choose another individual’s solutions. It’s highly likely that neither option is optimal, but we’re forced to choose. We then see those who made the winning proposal as leaders and tend to defer to them on many future decisions.
In collective thinking, this would never happen. If someone proposes a solution, it is put in front the collective for consideration and ideas on how to make it even better and assurance that all serious concerns about the proposal are addressed. The resulting solution belongs to everybody and no one is seen as a leader and no one is ever deferred to for future decision-making. Empowerment to execute proposals and fulfill leader-like positions is temporary and in service to the community.
Given that collective thinking is an essential part of our movement, it shouldn’t be restricted to “same place & same time” settings. The Future of Occupy initiative aims at using the best tools and methods of the arts and sciences of collective intelligence for expanding the scope of the our distributed genius from physical places to virtual spaces, and doing so, connecting better the local and global dimensions of the movement.
The Quick Guide provides valuable insights for various teams of the Assemblies, such as the Logistics, Facilitating and the Minutes teams.
Considering that no Assembly should be an island onto itself, we suggest adding a team of community knowledge gardeners, whose job is to ensure that meeting notes get turned into interactive, living documents, structured and presented for facilitating ensuing deliberations and collective action.