The TAO of democracy

by Tom Atlee, simply a book having its own website.

Excerpt from the book, chapter 6 – COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE: Collective intelligence at different levels of society. Given the central importance of collective intelligence, let us take a closer look at this phenomenon. The following examples show how collective intelligence might be applied at a variety of levels: in groups, organizations, communities, states, and whole societies.

GROUPS: An individual IQ test compares individuals’ problem-solving skills with the problem-solving capabilities of others their age. In a similar manner, we could demonstrate the existence of group intelligence by comparing how well various groups solve problems.

In a classic experiment, group intelligence was measured by presenting small groups of executives with a hypothetical wilderness survival problem. All-female teams arrived at better solutions (as judged by wilderness experts) than all-male teams. The women’s collective problem-solving capabilities were enhanced by their collaborative style, while the men’s efforts to assert their own solutions led them to get in each other’s way. Significantly, the resulting difference in collective intelligence did not occur because the individual women were smarter than the individual men, but rather because of a difference in gender-related group dynamics.


This example also shows how collaborative intelligence can enhance a group’s collective intelligence. When people align their individual intelligences in shared inquiries or undertakings, instead of using their intelligence to undermine each other in the pursuit of individual status, they are much more able to generate collective intelligence.

In the pursuit of collective intelligence, organizations often invest in many kinds of “team-building” approaches in order to generate greater collaboration within groups. In Chapter 7, we will be describing a number of simple, low-cost approaches that can be used to help neighborhood, community, and activist groups develop greater collaborative and collective intelligence … (full text).

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and about: The Tao of Democracy describes a new vision of politics and governance that can simultaneously address our unprecedented social problems and build a society that works for all … (full text).

Tom Atlee paints a vision not of some distant, ideal democracy but of here-and-now practices showing us what’s possible in our immediate future. In The Tao of Democracy he describes how we really can use citizen dialogue and deliberation powerfully to solve our common problems and meet deep human needs. What an important gift for our small, challenged planet! (full text of homepage).

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