For much of our lives, we are focused on fulfilling our potential as individuals. We are taught to express our physical and intellectual talents especially. If we are lucky, we may be supported to express and fulfil our desires, our love and our ideals. Over time, we hopefully come to a place where we have a good level of self-esteem and contentment. Along that road, we will have interacted with many people. We may have been part of sports teams or professional work groups and teams and yet the chances are that we have never really considered the higher value or potential of those groups.
As we reflect on teams and groups, collaboration is a word that resounds loudly in many organisations these days. It’s as though there is a growing awareness and consciousness that moving beyond the individual self has a higher value even if true value-added collaboration is still proving pretty tricky to achieve. However, if we stop and consider the deep interconnectedness that is a fundamental design principle within all aspects of life, we can start to appreciate why communities, tribes, families, teams, and groups have such a place in our lives.
What is worth reflecting on now is the growing importance of group work and why and how this needs to move to a new level. A level where we go beyond the identification with the self and truly see the potential that sits within a highly performing team or group.
The why of this on a certain level is pretty straightforward. We live in an age of complexity, ‘wicked’ problems, and deep uncertainty, all of which demand better use of the diverse talent and capability that exists as well as opening up new pathways for that potential to be accessed. We cannot solve most of the challenges without cooperation – across teams, across organisations, across societies and nations.
As it happens, we are being helped in this endeavour by astrological forces (yes, I know that won’t feel very scientific to some people). Nevertheless, astrologically we have entered into the Age of Aquarius which some may also recall as the title of a hippie song from the 1970s. The Aquarian Age, a period that will last around 2000 years, is, amongst other things, a time when we will see far more focus on groups. From paying attention to others in our communities to active collaboration and cooperation – in some cases with quite a high level of impact.
So what are we being called upon to do differently? Well, here we come to the need to move beyond individual and self-focused interest to a higher point of focus. That which serves the collective (however that may be defined for your endeavour) and which puts us into relationship with others in group formation. In high-performing team work, we often see the analogy of the geese used and how they fly in formation, taking turns to lead, share the load and so on. What underpins that though is a higher level of communication. A willingness to sense, be aware of and act on the information coming from the other members of the group as we move together toward the achievement of a shared purpose.
In the coming years, groups will be asked to go even further still. To establish such a deep level of trust and openness that the communication flow is seamless and that our consciousness and behaviours elevate to thinking ‘group’ first. Not in a self-sacrificial sense, but in a way that truly honours the importance and impact generated by high-functioning teams and groups. On a more existential level, it also honours and collaborates with that core truth of interdependence as well.
Letting go of the ‘ego’ in favour of the collective comes easily to some but is often a tough call for seasoned leaders…leaders who have had to battle and assert their individuality to be taken seriously. Now though we must prepare for the age of groups…