Welcome to Module 2: The Impact of Collective Beliefs on Group Behavior, Structures and Consciousness
In this Module, you are asked to address the following 4 questions: • What are the consequences of emphasizing individual freedom over equity and solidarity? • How do various forms of inequalities reinforce each other and what are their roots?• What are potential barriers to collaborating across groups?and• What forms of leadership maintain dominance of the manyby a few?
To help you answer these questions, you will explorethe limitations of strident individualism which Western narratives emphasize at the expense of equity and solidarity.You will then have the opportunity to investigate how various forms of inequalities reinforce each other and find their roots in cultures and structures of domination and subordination.You will also assess potential cultural barriers to collaboration beyond close group affiliations, and finally you will identify forms of leadership that maintain domination of the many by a few.
The intended outcome of this unit is for you to be able to recognize how the Western emphasis on strident individualismhas many limitations, in particular as it sets individuals apart from each other and from nature, and prevents them from feeling and acting as part of a larger interdependent and co-creative whole.
This Module starts off with a focus on individualism. You may well wonder why this should be the first place to focus. After all, for many people, individualism means freedom and self-expression.But strident, excessive or self-righteous individualism poses certain dangers. In his 1835 book Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville was one of the first to point outthat “Individualism at first pollutes only the source of the public virtues; but, in the long term, it attacks and destroys all the others and finally shrivels into egoism.”
The emphasis on strident individualism is at the root of Western monoculture, which is comprised of four self-reinforcing building blocks:A view of human nature that is egocentric,aggressive, materialistic and utilitarian, driven by libido, instant gratification, and separate from nature. This view is at least a century old, and was popularized by Freud and others.A domination paradigm: domination of the many by a few, of the weak by the strong, of women by men, of nature by humans, of sensitivity by reason, of quality of life by work, of local cultures by colonizers. Some aspects of this paradigm are as old as agriculture and patriarchy; others are only a few centuries old.The quest for ongoing material growth can be seen through quantitative measures of progress, consumerism, glorification of greed, scarcity mentality, globalization of markets, and the objectification of nature and other humans. This quest started in Europe with the merchants in the Renaissance period and has become generalized in modern times. Dependence on a single currency issued by a central bank in each country has created or reinforced the sense of scarcity and competition for resources.Blind faith in free markets: Markets are deemed best to “regulate” the economy and adjacent domains – which leads to unrestrained financial capitalism and speculation, economy an instrument of as war, disregard for ecological and social costs, political plutocracy, market- and performance-driven education, and privatization of healthcare and other public services or benefits. The combination of these four factors has become a Western ideology or monoculturein the last 30 years, largely exported through globalization to other continents such as Asia and Africa — which have traditionally viewed the individual as part of the group. Amy: Please embed the source on the slide – Source: Alain Gauthier www.coreleadership.com
What is the power of a monoculture?As F.S. Michaels writes in his book Monoculture: How One Story Is Changing Everything,“when you’re inside a master story at a particular time in history, you tend to accept its definition of reality. You unconsciously believe and act on certain things, and disbelieve and fail to act on other things. That’s the power of the monoculture; it’s able to direct us without us knowing too much about it.” This monoculture, with its emphasis on strident individualism, competition, and economic value has a deep cultural imprint on organizational life, mainstream media and education in most countries around the world. It tends to emphasize visible signs of individual success, to isolate people from each other, to limit other opportunities for human development – such as community involvement – and to reduce cultural diversity.
What role models does the monoculture offer us? “If a man has an apartment stacked to the ceiling with newspapers we call him crazy. If a woman has a trailer house full of cats we call her nuts. But when people pathologically hoard so much cash that they impoverish the entire nation, we put them on the cover of Fortune magazine and pretend that they are role models.” — B. LesterOther magazines will display top-billing actors or actresses, popular rock stars, famous professional soccer players, and other millionaires. Success is largely measured in financial terms and stories of how people of modest origin convey the belief that anyone can become a millionaire, if only they try or are lucky enough.Think about what success means to you… what role models inspire you and in what ways do you consider them to be successful?
Behaviors in groups can vary from aggressively competitive to cooperatively collaborative, depending on local culture and social structures. Some group behaviors reflect a very individualistic or “me first” attitude, while others portray an agreement on behavioral rules and a commitment to respect them. Take some time to reflect on the behaviors that predominate in one of the groups you most identify with. Compare them to the behavior of other groups you know of have observed directly or seen in videos or movies. How do individualism or altruism play out in these groups?
In this learning unit, you will learn to identify diverse forms of inequality – linked to systems of domination and subordination – and to recognize how they reinforce each other.
When you think about the main social institutions of our day, do they have certain things in commonin terms of social stratification and processes of advancement? What patterns do you see that are shared by a government, a large business, the military, the church or a university? Think about how these hierarchical structures generate or accentuate inequalities among people who work in these institutions as well as among those who are seeking employment and do not meet their selection criteria for recruitment or advancement.Reflect on what personal experiences you have had in relating to one or several of these institutions.
This diagram reflects some of the sources of social inequalities, and many of them reinforce one another. For instance poverty causes malnutrition and negatively affects gender bias (in many societies) and access to education. It is in turn affected by limited access to education, unemployment, gender bias, ethnic or racial bias, and disabilities. Limited access to educational opportunities leads to unemployment, gender bias, poverty, and even malnutrition. And in its turn, unemployment generates poverty and is affected by limited access to education, gender bias, ethnic/racial bias, and disabilities.To reduce social inequalities in the long run, it is best to approach these different sources from a systemic perspective.
There are, of course, many more forms of inequalities affecting large numbers of people around the world: not just the “have nots” but, indeed, the “never-will-haves”: for example: 2.2 billion people restricted in civil and political freedoms; 924 million “slum dwellers” lacking adequate shelter; 790 million lacking health services; 246 million children working as child laborers; 120 million couples without access to contraception; or 100 million “missing women”. Although these numbers date back to the year 2000, most of them have greatly increased in the last decade. As you most likley have realized, they result from a number of the root causes listed on the previous slide.The eight Millennium Development Goals – which range from reducingextreme poverty by 50% to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015 – form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions. They have galvanized unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the world’s poorest, but it is acknowledged a number of them will not be met in time.
Many of our cities, both in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, give us vivid illustrations of the coexistence of opulance and misery in the same place. The sprawling suburbs of some former industrial cities have left many houses, factories and building abandoned within city limits. Megacities in the Southern hemisphere are surrounded by large slum areas where socially marginalized people barely survive under conditions of great misery and duress. The more opulent mansions and districts tend to be protected by high walls and armed guards which make even more visible the deep rift between these to extremes of society. In fact, the United Nations has recently developed a new socio-economic category to describe the prevelance of these emerging extremes around the world, using the terms “ultra-rich” and “infra-poor”.Reflect on your own experience of inequality in your own town or the community where you live.
Now, consider whether you are involved in “finite” or infinite games” in your local group or community. In his book Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility, author James Carse gives the following definition of finite and infinite games:“There are at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing to play. The rules of the finite game may not change; the rules of an infinite game must change. Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries. Finite players are serious; infinite games are playful. A finite player plays to be powerful; an infinite player plays with strength. A finite player aims for eternal life; the infinite player aims for eternal birth.”Each of us is involved in different social circles simultaneous — family, school, work group, friends, hobbies or sports — and we can consider the “games” we play in each of them. Looking at each of these groups with this distinction in mind might give you some insight into your own behavior as well as into that of other group members.
In this unit, your will learn to assess potential barriers to building a sense of community beyond immediate group affiliations.
Some barriers to collaboration are visible while others are invisible. The visible ones are structures which prevent exchanges and communication, such as a wall in a divided city or a physical board separating a beehive in two parts. Less visible ones are collective attributions or stereotypes about another group, which themselves are based on different collective values. Which barriers are you aware of in your larger community that may exist between a group that you identify with and another group?
By now, you may be wondering how to engage in a process of cultural adjustment that will lead to collaboration. In their article, Making Sense of Intercultural Collaboration,authors Allan Bird and Joyce Osland invite you to consider the following sequence of steps to affect cultural adjustment – and the choices you can make along the way:Often we expect others to be like us, but it turns out they aren’t…Then a cultural incident occurs…Causing a reaction (anger, fear, etc.). We are then faced with a choice:1. Our reaction is followed by a false attribution about their behavior.And we withdraw. Or… 2. We become aware of our reaction. We reflect on the causes… And our reaction subsides…We observe and decode the cultural differences in the situation…and this helps us to developculturally appropriate expectations of ourselves and the other.Lina: Do we need to credit the authors on the slide itself? The corresponding PDF article is in the bibliography.
Cultural adjustment can then lead to creating something meaningfultogether across cultural divides. This is a great opportunity for you to become even more aware of the stereotypes you may have about other cultures, especially if you don’t have direct experience with individuals from these cultural groups. Initiatives such as the Peace Corps, Habitat International, and Doctors Without Boarders have given opportunities to young people and people from various trades and professional background to have this sort of experience. They do this through projects that provide the means for people to get to know first-hand people of other cultures by working directly with them. What has been your experience in relating to people of other ethnic, religious, or national backgrounds? Think about what specific challenges you encountered in doing so, and how you handled them.
To collaborate successfully across cultural and organizational boundaries requires combining both individual and collective conditions or factors.Individual conditions include: mutual respect and trust;perception of complementarity;open and frequent communication; flexibility; a win/win framework; and a long-term orientation.Collective conditions include: shared vision and values;concrete goals;behavioral commitments;clear, mutually defined relationships;shared responsibility for implementation; shared rewards based on collective performance; and commitment to learning and improvement.Consider whether or not these conditions were present when you or your group engaged with others from a different cultural background.
In this final unit, you will learn how to identify forms of leadership that maintain the domination of a few who seek to preserve the status quo over a larger more powerless group.
. There are countless books and talks on the subject of leadership. As we get into this topic, the first thing to do is to make a distinction between two of the main views of leadership. As Professor Jerry Porras puts it, a mainstream view of leadership is that of the charismatic visionary leader, who powerfully articulates a vision, is passionate, inspirational, unconventional, willing to incur personal risk, personally powerful, very visible, and highly motivated to lead. Such a leader is focused on leading the organization. Another much less common view is that of a leader who is a learner, a social architect, or a gardener: a good listener, calm, thoughtful, quiet, humble, gentle, soft-spoken, unobtrusive, and highly motivated to learn. Such a leader is focused on building the organization and growing other leaders
You may recognize some of the leaders shown here. Which type of leader do you think each of them represents: charismatic visionary or learner / social architect / gardener?Do you know leaders of both types in your own community or country? Think about the values that drive them: financial success, personal recognition, service, or other things… Who among them do you most admire?
Leaders who behave as “knowers”, rather then learners, have a negative impact on their followers – an impact that increases overtime and creates a downward spiral. By taking charge and acting quickly, convinced that they are right, impatient leaders creates a sense of dependency or apathy among their followers. If their actions do not produce the intended results, leaders may become defensive or start blaming others. This results in erosion of trust as well as in fear and loss of risk-taking among followers. Learning in the group is driven underground. Silence, non-transparency, cover-up of mistakes and lack of critical feedback may result, thereby reducing both the creativity and the effectiveness of the group.Does this situation sound familiar to you? Think about the domains in your life such dynamics tend to occur.Source: Alain Gauthier – Adapted from P. O’Donnell & J. Galvin
Finally, consider the notion of new forms of leadership that enable self-empowerment and collective intelligence. These forms are emerging in number of organizations and communities all over the world but they are generally not featured yet in mainstream media.They are called by different names: shared,distributed,rotating, participatory, collaborative or collective leadership.Most of them view leadership as a relational process rather than a position or status – a process that is based on interpersonalinfluence, dialogue, and mutuality. They deal with complexity and uncertainty by engaging simultaneously top-down, bottom-up, lateral, and recursive approaches to change. Can you see why complexity thinking is important here? Some of the most evolutionary forms of leadership cross boundaries – organizational boundaries in the case of open innovation involving customers and suppliers, and sector boundaries such as public, private and civil society in community development initiatives.Think of a few examples of these new forms of leadership in your local or regional environment. Are you involved in one yourself?
Evolving toward new forms of leadership requires a willingness to examine one’s beliefs about leadership and then adopt new practices. That process always starts with looking at what needs to change within.In his book Solving Tough Problems,Adam Kahane writes: “There was a man who wanted to change the world. He tried very hard, but could not accomplish anything. So he tried to save his country. When he could not, he tried to save his town, and then, finally, his family, failing each time to change anything at all. At last he tried to change himself. Then a surprising thing happened: as he changed himself, his family changed. As his family changed, his neighborhood changed…and so on. So, we begin with looking at ourselves as leaders.”Later in this course, you will have the opportunity to delve directly into the question of what you are truly willing to change in your beliefs and behaviors in order to affect lasting change around you.