Archive for collective wisdom

Introduction to Magic in the Middle – Part Three

By Finn Voldtofte, 2005

Collective Intelligence – Collective Wisdom
Intelligence here simply means the ability to think – that is to reflect, consider, examine, learn, be absorbed, distinguish … .

The shift in awareness, from the individual to the magic in the middle of a group of people, is also a shift towards paying attention to the emerging ability to think together, the collective intelligence of the group.

A collective intelligence has the possibility of thinking at a different level than we can individually. The characteristics of a collective intelligence can be described intuitively with the words “higher”, “deeper”, “broader”, “bigger” … .

What we gain by making use of this ability to think together, we could call collective wisdom. Collective wisdom is thus a form of knowledge that we, in principle, do not have access to individually, but that can only arise in our common field. As such it is not knowledge that we have in common; it is knowledge that only emerges in communities.

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This is the third of six weekly posts taken from an Introduction to Magic in the Middle written by the late Finn Voldtofte in March of 2005 (click the following links to go directly to Part 1, Part 2, Part 4, Part 5, or Part 6).

Finn was one of the original co-founders of the World Café. He worked tirelessly with Juanita Brown to distill and articulate the World Café Design Principles that underlie all World Café practice. Finn was an amazing human being who inspired and touched many, many people on a profound level. His articulation of the “Magic in the Middle” is still one of the most evocative descriptions of what makes World Café “work” and we are honored to publish his words here in this crucial time, when they ring as truly & eloquently as ever


World Cafe is “Stepping In” on a new level – increasing our capacity to engage most effectively with the challenging issues of our times. Here’s an overview of what we’re envisioning and some of the priorities we’ve identified to start. Please join us and contribute what you can to support this important work.

This blog post is one response to an open invitation to our global community – to step up & express what the gift of the World Cafe means to YOU. We welcome your posts, as well as your comments and shares on this post.

Activating Collective Wisdom

(first published in weDialogue, May 2017)
The capacity to activate collective wisdom is at the very heart of the work I do, both in my spiritual practice and in my work with groups through participatory group processes like World Café, Open Space, Circle, etc.. As a host of participatory practice, my understanding of collective wisdom has largely been that of a field of shared awareness that can arise within the group when certain conditions are in place.

While it’s certainly true that Collective Wisdom arises from particular qualities of intention and attention, in practice its presence or absence has always been a bit of a mystery to me. In my experience, sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t – even when it appears that pretty much the same conditions are in place.

So you can imagine the enthusiasm of my “yes” when long-time friend and colleague Alan Briskin – one of the pioneers in shaping the language and ideas associated with collective wisdom and a leading practitioner in the field – asked if I wanted to collaborate with him to produce an online program on this subject.

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When Does Conversational Magic Happen?

This video of Juanita Brown talking about the “magic” that can happen in dialogic processes like the World Café when we are able to cross-pollinate ideas and access the collective intelligence between us, is one of a series by documentary videographer Martin Rausch.

Juanita’s interview is part of a film Martin is currently working on called The Blindspot – Unleashing the Power of Collective Intelligence.