What makes today's emerging society feel so different from other eras?
It has taken many millennia to give rise to our modern civilisation. And has involved many influences and cycles of individual and collective cognitive development. Each cycle being triggered by new tools and technologies. Take for example the psycho-technology of alphabetic literacy which forms a key foundation for our modern civilization and began to have a major impact from approximately 600 BCE. This invention is now fully integrated in our modern cognition and without which our modern civilisation would be very different.
With each cycle has come major variable consequences, some evolutionary in nature and some revolutionary. What we do know is the time between these key technological advances is rapidly declining and is now significantly less than our average human lifespan.
The curve is clearly accelerating, and despite the regular recurrence of the notion that eventually “Everything that can be Invented has been Invented”, the cycle just keeps on going. And so, with every enhancement of our individual and collective cognition comes yet more innovation.
By the end of the 20th century we were at a point in the cycle where we had reached an imperfect equilibrium between chaos and order. A relatively stable period of societal development demonstrating steady, predictable, and linear progression.
We had passed through the information age and segued our way through the era of the knowledge economy, in a relatively stable fashion. And in this controlled and productive technologically advancing world, we had become accustomed to an ever-improving standard of living through the widely distributed application of shared scientific knowledge.
We started to believe it was just a matter of time and patience, and we would solve all problems through controlled application of our society’s collective knowledge. Promising a stable, controlled global economy and an ever-improving life for all.
It is worth noting that many of today’s institutions and leaders honed their approach to leadership during this extensive period of stability.
Despite many imperfections, inequalities and tensions within society, the optimists in the developed world would be forgiven for believing humanity was on a home run. As a species we had ventured into space; banished large scale conflicts across the developed world; and started to seriously make inroads into world poverty.
Fast forward almost two decades and we are now living in a new era where there is an almost limitless capacity for individuals to share ideas, knowledge and experience in real-time. Where cumulative knowledge is free, ideas are contagious and speed around our shrinking global society in an instant. And are afforded super salience and relevance through embedded algorithms and human networking.
What only a few individuals could have imagined was the dramatic impact this would have on the lives of individuals, institutions, businesses and markets. With super connectivity and supportive technologies being the underlying source of disruption. Leading to a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world.
Despite the apparently seismic impacts of a whole range of new connective technologies, these unpredictable tendencies can be understood at a conceptual level through the lens of complex systems and game theory. Alongside this, work from the fields of cognitive sciences, AI and machine learning can help us develop new strategies to ensure this global phenomenon and major cycle of cognition development results in societal resonance and value creation rather than dissonance and disconnection.
We are just at the point of recognising both the costs and benefits of this super connectivity of humans and where there is equal potential for enhanced resonance and harmony or significant dissonance, discord and disruption.So
What is Collective Wisdom?
Wise cognition can be described as the development of a collective capacity to filter out noise and make resonant connections across a distributed network of intelligent agents. The ability to transcend our old models and interact at a whole new level of networked intelligence.
Wisdom is the flexible, non-linear adaptation and application of relevant knowledge to a dynamic and unfamiliar problem. And widely differs from the rigid and linear application of the fixed knowledge we might use to address a familiar problem.
The ability of our society to transcend its fixation on tried and tested knowledge-based learning will require radical societal transformation. Including a whole new approach by our education systems and academia. Which by design has focussed on segmented specialised and narrow knowledge-based learning and research.
“Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom” – Charles Spurgeon 19th century British clergyman.
Hence, wisdom relies on the development of cognitive agility, flexibility, and adaptiveness.
The consequences for individual citizens and businesses are both deep and wide ranging and hence to avoid being knowledgeable hostage to fortune, we could all benefit from developing competencies in transformation. As previously noted, this applies especially to the leadership we rely upon from our institutions and leaders.
Welcome to the age of networked intelligence and collective wisdom… Welcome to the Transformation age.
What is the impact of the Transformation age on the world of business?
In business the name of the game will be the harnessing of our natural adaptive capacity of individuals and teams and mankind’s evolved nature to hunt out, wherever possible, a win-win for ourselves and others.
In practice, particularly in larger complex businesses, effective teams have become our primary source of innovative and creative work. And it is where we experience encouragement, mutual support and sense of belonging. However, it is often the space between individuals and teams, as well as between the business and its audience where the greatest loss of value occurs, through disconnections and dislocations, and where lack of wisdom can arise. Thus, creating a negative feedback mechanism which in turn limits value contribution and hence personal resonance.
A transformative business is one that is optimising personal and team value creation, right across the organisation, and can respond to new opportunities. Where individuals resonate with their role and team; teams resonate with each other; and the total organisation resonates with its chosen market.
In a business world of the ever-increasing complexity, accelerated by the fourth industrial revolution; time has now arrived for all businesses to fully realise the natural transformative power of all its business participants. We can do this through harnessing the amazing capability and potential found in abundance but hidden within individuals and teams. And combine this with stimulation of reserves of transformational leadership found within everyone.