Power and Trust of Collective Intelligence (Part III)



©BerlinChangeDays, Valérie Wagoner Head of Transformation @PALOIT


On my way to the third day of Berlin Change Days 2017 on Sunday morning, I was reflecting on the first two days and thinking that the program had been more contrived and had left less space for spontaneity than the year before. I was wondering if the plan would be different on the last day. I would soon find out… As I entered the main aula, I noticed the setup for the plenary opening. Chairs had been arranged in concentric circles around a large piece of paper lying on the ground on which was written “La nuit porte conseille”, a French idiom which roughly translates to “To sleep on an issue helps put it in perspective.” Participants arrived steadily and took a seat in the circle.

Jeffer London and Jacques Chlopczyk, the two facilitators of Berlin Change Days 2017 started the day with a check-in asking participants to share a few words on their learning journey so far.

Then Jeffer announced that he and Jacques got feedback that they needed to let go and leave more space for spontaneity.  He said there were four planned workshops, but participants were free to propose additional workshops and everyone was allowed to butterfly from one workshop to another.

This was the trigger for a mob reaction for lack of better words. One person after another was asking for “air time” on the microphone to express a wide spectrum of emotional reactions. It was a sudden chain reaction that seemed like the result of an emotional build-up over the previous couple days. I observed, trying to take it all in without analyzing, aware that the one moment all of us present at Berlin Change Days 2017 would remember later on was in the making.



As I listened to one message after another, it quickly became clear that the cause of the emotional reactions was the heavy and rigid agenda participants had been subjected to over the two previous days.

Some participants expressed that Berlin Change Days 2017 was run with an imbalance of power between those in charge of the event and those attending it and that it was ironic given the theme of the conference was Power and Trust.

A few female participants pointed out that those in charge of the event were men and expressed a sense of alienation in living in a male-dominated world. One of them offered her view of the choice of symbols for Berlin Change Days 2017 (a red bull as a symbol for Power, two people helping each other up a mountain as a symbol for Trust, and a caterpillar turning into a butterfly as a symbol for change) as being symbols that were too masculine.

Many participants, especially men were confused by the turn of events. As far as I am concerned, I was in the middle of a breakthrough learning experience. I realized that we are all “formatted” by the world we live and work in where everything is measured quantitatively and power-driven.

I am convinced those in charge of organizing Berlin Change Days 2017 had a well-meaning intention to make the experience as worthwhile as possible for participants by carefully loading the agenda with as many activities as could fit in because that was their way of measuring the success of the event.

From the participants’ perspective, I realized we arrived at Berlin Change Days 2017 in our posture as change agents. But over the course of two days, we became subjects of the experiential activities taking place at Berlin Change Days 2017. As change agents, we find ourselves constantly in the Subject Matter Expert seat but rarely going through the change we bring. This felt uncomfortable to most of us.


My final realization was about the power and trust of collective intelligence. 

When, on behalf of the Berlin Change Days 2017 organizing team, Jeffer relinquished the role of organizer to let participants make a collective decision on how to organize Sunday morning, it looked like none of the organizers were prepared for the mob reaction that followed. I must admit that it was truly a surprise for me too as it probably was for most participants.

When given the power to make a collective decision on how to organize the last Berlin Change Days 2017 day, many individuals were not in an emotional state to do it. In that one moment, the repressed emotions resulting from years of alienation in a power-driven world had to all come out. It was a powerful moment.

I realized that as the world transitions to participative methods to make decisions collectively, we will all need to enter into a collective forgiveness of our past experiences. Are we ready for that? The future will tell us. This concludes my learning journey at Berlin Change Days 2017.

The dates for Berlin Change Days 2018 have already been announced. It will be 26-28 October 2018. The theme might be “Courage”. I already look forward to it.

Save the date and see you at Berlin Change Days 2018!

Discover the second part




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