I truly believe the proverb, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” I have seen this come to fruition time, and time again over the span of my professional life. Another axiom I picked up on my journey is this, “No man is so foolish that he cannot sometimes give another good counsel, and no man so wise that he may not easily falter if he takes no other counsel than his own. He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a master.” I have played the fool enough times to have learned, sometimes painfully, the value wise counsel – the Power of Many Minds.
Following and embracing this precept, one of the foundational principles on which I have built the Family Care Network is simply, “do everything through a collaborative, team-engaged process.” Employing the Power of Many Minds through collaboration and teamwork releases the force of synergy, the interaction and cooperation of two or more individuals which produces a far greater effect than the sum of individual efforts. Synergy stimulates the intellectual genius of a group of Many Minds.
It is unfortunate that we live in such a capsulized, siloed culture with way too much emphasis on self and “rugged-individualism” that we have lost the beauty of experiencing group dynamics and collaboration. Do we have such fragile egos and narcissistic tendencies that we always must be given credit, be the star, or be the hero? It’s true, working in a group requires a different set of skills, patience, tolerance, selflessness, acquiescence and acknowledgment to name a few. These are good things to have manifested in our lives. From a global perspective, how wonderful society would be if everyone were operating from a “we” and not “me” worldview. Dream on!
So let me explain what it takes to truly harness the Power of Many Minds within a successful organization; the method that has led to Family Care Network’s success.
First, it must be a conscientious effort, a pre-thought commitment and decision. In other words, it is about leadership. Collaboration, teamwork and synergy must be taught and led. It’s easy to get a group of people together to talk about something or brainstorm, but it is another thing to make that a useful productive exercise. For collaboration to be effective, it requires a change of attitude and behavior throughout the organizational culture.
Second, it must produce a result that is rewarding not only for the group, but for each participant. Unleashing and valuing people’s creative juices, imagination and innovation can be quite fulfilling and rewarding. Add to that, a sense of ownership, acknowledgment for people’s efforts and a tangible outcome, and you have a win-win situation. It is essential that there is a Shared Purpose and Vision embraced by the group. This serves as a motivator for people to move past the limits of their experience and into the realm of innovation and imagination.
Third, for the Power of Many Minds to flourish and collective intelligence to work, there are four critical ingredients for success: 1) Diversity of Opinion – providing people the freedom to contribute unique, controversial or contradictory ideas, while making sure there is a diverse group of thinkers at the table. It is valuable to draw in participants who are both familiar and unfamiliar with the issue at hand, again to create a broader diversity of perspective and opinion. 2) Promote Independent Thinking that frees each person to express their own opinions without judgment, pressure to conform, or feeling like an outsider. 3) A significant Familiarity with the Customer and problem to be resolved is quite critical. With a clear understanding of the Customer and/or problem, diversity of opinion and independent thinking coagulate into a powerful, synergetic process which produces results! 4) There must be a Specific Process for orchestrating discussion and tabulating the results. There are many excellent models for this. Design Thinking is used extensively with excellent results, particularly in product development. Amazon has employed a version of Design Thinking they call “Working Backwards” which underlies their tremendous organizational successes.
Fourth, Relationships are Key. The outcome of any collaborative effort is dependent upon well-developed personal relationships among participants. If people are not familiar with each other, then it is important that they are given the opportunity to become familiar. “Ice-breakers” are often used for this purpose. Team-Building may be an extreme option, but it is an effective method for creating new relationships and connections, breeding familiarity and building trust.
And finally, Trust is the Glue. Trust is the belief or confidence that one party has in the reliability, integrity and honesty of another party. It is the expectation that the faith one places in someone else will be honored. Trust must permeate the collective intelligence, collaborative process. Participants must be completely comfortable in knowing that their effort and input is valued, that it is for an honorable, honest purpose, that they’re not being taken advantage of or exploited in any way, and that the outcome or results are for the greater good of the organization. Trust and Professional Integrity are synonymous.
An exciting development within our industry, and, an extension of the Power of Many Minds practice, has been the recent state requirement that all decision-making regarding children, youth and families must be done through a team-driven, collaborative process. At FCNI, we have done this throughout our 33+ years of operation. In California, this is referred to as a Child Family Team (CFT). The CFT method, when implemented properly, embodies all of the elements I have discussed above. More importantly, it gives “voice, choice and preference” to the client – the customer! When I started in this industry many decades ago, social workers and probation officers were the ones making unilateral decisions about their clients with very little -- and in some cases no -- collaborative input. Utilizing the Power of Many Minds has transformed our industry, significantly improving the outcomes and quality of life of those being served!
Family Care Network would not be the organization that it is today without benefitting from the Power of Many Minds. Of course, the greatest value of harnessing the collective genius of group thinking has been the amazing benefit to the children, youth and families we serve. It has been a process by which we have maximized our mission “to enhance the wellbeing of children and families in partnership with our community.” Success has been achieved “through the counsel of many.”
Help FCNI bring more success to our children and families impacted by unhealed trauma. Join us in the Power of Many Minds by coming together and donating today. Because together, we can help produce a far greater impact!