My dear friend and colleague Alan Briskin was the conversation starter at Heartland's Thought Leader Gathering in the bay area earlier this month, talking about his recent book, The Power of Collective Wisdom and the Trap of Collective Folly.
This is not one of those books you skim through and set aside - you could profitably keep it on your nightstand and read it over and over, always finding something new and valuable. In fact, one of the basic lessons of the book stood out for me in Alan's talk as if I were hearing it for the first time: there is a point in many collective interactions where we have a choice to either ascend to a "higher place" together or fall into "folly". That point, Alan says, is characterized by disagreement or conflict. It's in negotiating problems where we are in danger of collapsing into either polarization (disassociating ourselves completely from the others' point of view) or false agreement, which is equally pernicious.
If in that critical moment of conflict, however, we are able to really listen to each other and find a way to accept our differences and continue to treat each other with respect, we truly have the capacity for reaching collective wisdom. I've been at this critical point several times since the TLG and remembering Alan's words - to listen more deeply, ask questions and make an honest attempt to understand another view - has made all the difference.
Now we just have to get the book into the US Senate reading list...