Written by Steven Scagnelli
When considering the four principles of CrossLead: Trust, Empowered Execution, Common Purpose, and Shared Consciousness, it is Shared Consciousness that is often seen as the most abstract.
It is straightforward to look back at events and see when you trusted someone, when you were empowered to accomplish a task, or when you were with a group that all shared a common purpose. If someone were to ask you the last time you shared consciousness with someone, you might ask them how long it has been since they left the commune.
Shared Consciousness is not an existential philosophy, it is what is known as an emergent property. Similar in fashion to how a flock of birds, or school of fish, appear to act as a single organism in large groups, this appearance emerges from all the individuals following the same set of rules and respecting the same set of boundaries. This is vastly different from groupthink, in which all members follow the same path, in the same way, often with disastrous results. In a flock of birds, each animal is doing their own thing, within the parameters they are programmed with from birth.
As humans, we don’t arrive with preprogrammed behaviors like birds and fish, however we learn many behaviors we subconsciously use every day. Without an overt awareness, many people perform tasks to create and encourage Shared Consciousness in their environments. One of the most prevalent is a common grocery or to do list if you share your residence with others. Instead of leaving it to each individual to determine what is missing from the fridge or pantry, a common list allows everyone to have access to the information and make decisions accordingly.
Most people agree to some basic rules. If you are the first to notice your stock of gummy bears is getting dangerously low, you should add it to the list. If you finish the last of the gummy bears, you should be the one to buy more, and while you are at the store pick up the other items on the list that are running low. Shared Consciousness emerges from setting up basic rules and boundaries which are clearly communicated. For Shared Consciousness to flourish, it requires more than rule setting and adherence though.
The invisible thread that weaves it all together is information sharing. If everyone agreed a list should be kept, but then each person makes their own list and keeps it in their own room, then they are actually working against Shared Consciousness. In order to fulfill its purpose, the list has to be public and people need to know where to find it. If one roommate were to move the list every day, the others would likely lose interest in using it for coordination. The resulting lack of Shared Consciousness leads to duplication of effort (everyone buys gummy bears), missed opportunities (I was at the store, but didn’t realize you needed soda too), and wasted resources (we have so many gummy bears, some will go bad before we eat them all).
Within a business environment these same concepts can be put into place to create and foster Shared Consciousness. The basics are simple rules with clearly defined boundaries all supported by effective and consistent information sharing. As with Trust, it takes time for Shared Consciousness to develop but only an instant to disrupt. It is not something that can be left on autopilot, however the return on investment is faster execution and reduced waste, both time and effort. Shared Consciousness allows large teams, to agilely respond to change without disruption. An organization with strong Shared Consciousness can respond to change gracefully, like a flock of birds changing direction when facing a threat or pursuing an opportunity.
Steven Scagnelli is a Director of Client Services for CrossLead, Inc. He leads multiple client engagements with Fortune 50 corporations, implementing tailored executive education programs, evaluating organizational capabilities, and advising on organizational processes. A veteran of the US Air Force, and Central Intelligence Agency, he brings a breadth of experience from multiple disciplines to bear while partnering with his clients. As an expert in the CrossLead Platform and Methodology, he prepares his clients to adapt and excel in the new complex digital world.