Sapiential Leadership

"The task decides, not the name, the age, or the budget of the discipline, or the rank of the individual applying for it. Knowledge, therefore, has to be organized as a team in which the task decides who is in charge, for what, and for how long."  ~ Peter Drucker

I have written and spoken much about group genius over the past 40 years. I have told stories about how "my" second  graders taught me a lot about what I came to call group genius. Almost by accident—certainly, not by anything I learned in the school of education—I learned how much more effective teaching and learning flows "from the ground up". I had been teaching about six months when one of my students, Seth, asked a question about why soap bubbles had colors. (This was long before the Internet). My first thought was to remind him that his question had nothing to do with what I was teaching. I was getting frustrated with teaching; it seemed so many of the young minds were closed, dormant, not interested in learning. But, instead of reprimanding Seth, I said, "I don't know". And I turned to the other students and said, "Do any of you have questions you wonder about?" Eyes turned away from the windows toward me, hands shot up in the air. I don't remember it being gradual or hesitant. I remember that moment being full of life and energy. And you know, I really had no idea how to answer most of the questions. So we settled on a two week period where each student would find a way to learn as much as they could about their question and at the end of the time we would have a big fair sharing all of our new found learnings.  

Dormant minds came alive. New interactions formed organically as an incredible wealth of ideas, often considered too adult or advanced for these young minds, took shape and began to mature. Leadership along with  teaching and learning from each other happened moment by moment.  There was a wonderful spontaneity to the work. I was not controlling this work but giving it guidance and good energy.  My young second graders were teaching me knowledge work!  They would have recognized Drucker's definition of the coming knowledge worker! 

For the knowledge worker to be relevant, engaging in group genius and sapiential leadership are essential.  In today's world, the knowledge worker who cannot engage and collaborate with others ... or shape and share leadership in the moment, is not effective.  Children seem to know this intuitively. This is why it is so difficult to get them to conform or be interested in top down control.  

Building on Drucker's definition of the knowledge worker,  the concept of  MG Taylor knowledge workers was given life and "back of the room" facilitation became an integral part of our process. Knowledge workers were free independent agents, not employees. When an event or project was planned, we sent out a "bird call" and k-workers responded. A team came together for the work, created community, supported their own group genius and became adept at helping to unleash the gg of the client through a rotating and organic sense of sapient leadership. On completion of their work, the team disbanded to come together in other forms with other k-workers to do another event.  Now, 30 years later there are several hundreds of knowledge workers using the MGT process throughout the world.  They still come together around a project or challenge, cohere into their  own group genius, and disassemble after their project is complete, only to come together in another form.  These teams assemble across many cultures, languages, and disciplines.  They thrive on diversity and the challenge of finding ways to serve the project while achieving their own goals as individuals and as team.  It is the ability to honor a revolving, spur of the moment sapient leadership that enables this self organization.  

Group genius at its best is the highest form of play. And inside group genius there is always sapiential leadership revolving, learning, guiding, redirecting, seeking, performing -- bringing to life Drucker's definition of knowledge work.