tend to form groups, and we onserve many kinds of groups, from a dual relationship
including friendship and marriage, cooperating teams, larger social and
political structures, to whole nations and eventually the United Nations
as the most comprehensive group on a planet. This tendency arises from
a number of motives, and proceeds along certain interactive styles.
work hypothesis is that, whichever the human needs we consider, the group
situation offers more possibilities to fulfill those needs than an inidividual,
isolated condition. These needs and motivations can be grouped in three
sections, A+B+C: Affective(emotional, attention, tenderness, sexuality,
love, amusement, humour, symbolism), Behavioural (cooperation, mutual
aid, industry, production, commerce, care and protection, experience),
and Cognitive (knowledge, science, information, consciousness, creativity).
Those three fundamental functions of human mind were already suggested
in the medieval concepts (quoted form Everyman, 13th century): Wisdom,
Force and Beauty.
social contact includes those three aspects, although only weakly: people
do, think and feel together.
A group is formed
to intensify one or more aspects of human functioning.
Most of groups only
pay attention to one of these motivations: the activity aspect
prevails in a sports club, an expedition, a political party; the intellectual aspect is central in a discussion group, a scientific faculty; and the
affective aspect (aesthetics, symbolism) is the aim of groups for spirituality --oriental
or occidental--, religious groups, masons, an amateur orchestra or choir,
etc. Although most of these groups also feel the importance of socializing,
i.e. a mild combination of the other two aspects, the latter are most often
not seen as essential in the group's functioning.
Some groups try to
consciously integrate two or all three of these aspects: friends,
a relationship, some religious or masonic groups. The group becomes than
something very important for the members, fulfilling many of their needs,
and tend to become more closed, a micro-society --a family, an abbey, a
sect-- although this closedness is not essential.
Interactive style. The simple fact of putting people together is not sufficient to reach an
optimal group functioning. The individual has to learn certain interactive
attitudes and social behaviour, ranging from respect to responsability,
to enable the group to produce the highest possible outcome and mutual
well-being. Many styles of interaction are possible, but they can be described
in three categories: primary, secondary and tertiary.
three stages of social interaction
A primary style is a structureless, chaotic interaction, where only individual
and short-time aims count. It's simply ego(t)ism.
In a secondary interactive style, people try to organize the behaviour of others, to make
it congruent with one's own desires. The interaction is fundamentally "exogenous",
i.e. imposed, coercive, by laws, moral pressure or simply physical
aggression. The external motivators evolve form negative (to threat with
harm and pain) to positive (to allure with wages, reward and social reinforcement).
It's the progressive evolution from dictatorship towards true participation
and democracy, and in modern times the cyclic inter-reactive game of Right
and Left. Economically it's the evolution from capitalism to socialism,
where both have their advantages and weeknesses.
A tertiary interaction style is "endogenous": it reposes on a spontaneous discipline
and contributions, a general feeling of responsability, a consciousness
of the value of others, and an inexhaustible tendency to elaborate integrations,
in communication as well as in actions. One often calls it synergy,
as opposed to traditional, directed cooperation. In postmodern terminology,
such a group can be labeled as turquoise.
One striking difference
with the secondary style is the conscient strive in a tertiary group to
evaluate and to discuss its own levels of functioning, seeking to improve
it constantly. Evolution is not considered as a deplorable but necessary
reaction to unexpected crises, but a welcome improvement with only benefits
for all group members. New ideas are not seen as criticisms, but as constructive
and valuable suggestions.
An important point
in the comprehension of the interactive style, is to consider that the
level of functioning is not merely a question of choice, or something
imposed by the rulers or the most dominant members. A group --and a relationship--
only function at a higher level if all group members are able/willing to
do so. Democracy seems not to be possible in a primitive culture. Deciding
to form a group on a higher level of functioning implies the preparedness
of all members to train themselves in the required interactive skills.
Sometimes we see that the ability of the members enables a higher level
of functioning than is offered by the prevailing structures. Then revolutions
become likely (e.g. the French Revolution, American Independence, a conflict
between son and father, the Students' Revolt of May '68, the emergence
of Peer to Peer and Open Sources cooperations on the Internet). But the
most frequent reason why high level functioning doesn't not succeed is
the fact that an important number of members are not able or willing to
function along the rules required for this particular level of functioning.
not to underestimate is the technical aspect: media and education in general
tend to improve the ability, motivation and possibilities to function at
a higher level. This is particularly paramount on the actual internet scene.
By definition, a
t-Group is a group with the highest possible quality of group functioning,
derived from modern insights, psychological and sociological, about optimal
functioning. A t-Group is the concretization of the synergistic style.
The "t -" refers
to fundamental quality characteristics of functioning, such as tertiary,
transcendental, team, temple, Teilhard, top, etc.
This high level is
apparent in at least two aspects: (1) the three aspects of functioning
are explicitly present: intellectual, active and aesthetic, and (2) the
interactive level of the group is synergistic.
A fundamental characteristic
of t-Groups is that, as insights about optimal human functioning develop,
the concrete form of t-Groups will automatically evolve. Revolutions and
conflictuous reformations, schisms, separations and divorces, resignations
and discharges, typical for secondary groups, tend to be unexistent in
tertiary groups. Whenever members or subgroups feel unfulfilled needs or
develop new ideas, the open integrative communication process can cope
with it, and use it as constructive contributions to enhance the group's
A good friendship
or relationship is perhaps the best example of a tertiary cooperation.
But many other groups, including political parties, social clubs, sects,
religious communities, masonic lodges, a faculties, scientific societies,
sports or explorer teams, discussion groups, often function as a t-Group,
especially in the first, "pioneering" period. Internet offers unequalled
opportunities to develop virtual t-Groups, with phenomena as peer to peer
(P2P) communication (a term used by Michel
Tentative Description of a t-Group
From a motivational point of view a t-Group generally results from an initiative by a certain
number of people, looking for the highest level of life quality. They have
the convition that the quality of human existence may increase with a more
conscious study of the factors influencing human functioning, as individual
and as group, and a continuous endeavour to attain higher levels of functioning.
From a functional point of view, a t-Group touches the three fundamental functions of human mind: Affection, Behaviour and Cognition, or, as the medieval
expression suggested (quoted form Everyman, 13th century): Wisdom,
Force and Beauty. This combination not only is an important time saver
for the members (who don't have to look for three kinds of groups), but
is an inspiring stimulation and an equilibrating factor for each separate
dimension. In fact, the Affective (aesthetic, emotional,symbolic)
activities gain in depth if they can refer to real experiences, within
the group, of cooperation (Behavioural) and constructive discussion (Cognition).
The Cognitive dimension (discussions, meditative consciousness)
tends to become more realistic if it frames into the realism of daily life
experience. Otherwise, there is a risk for leaving the facts of life, and
become purely theoretical. Also the Behavioural dimension is constantly
enriched whith cognitive insights and an emotional sensitivity: dreams
tend to become true.
Of course, selecting
members to build a t-Group may prove difficult. We observe much more individual
motivation for one or two of these three dimensions. But groups consisting
of only one or two motivations tend to deviate in these dimensions, as
they are not equilibrated by the presence of the other dimension(s).
style is supposed to match the highest expectations. Two factors are
required to enable tertiary functioning: an integrative attitude
and a co-responsibility.
The integrative approach, explained in more detail on other
pages of this site, has two dimensions: an intellectual ('conceptual')
and an organizational ('factual'). The intellectual approach believes
that every contribution to an insight of an problem soving probably is
useful, and that all contradictions are illusory, because they are due
to inexact formulations rather than to insurmontable divergences. The organizational
approach considers that every behaviour of organization only is acceptable,
if everybody who is cioncerned feels happy with it, as well on short as
on long term. Of course, nearly nobody probably is spontaneously prepared
to function adequately in an integrative organization, and personal growth
processes may be required.
Communication in secondary groups is restricted: not everything can be mentioned or discussed,
because many myths and phantasms prevail, and unconventional remarks are
often threatening and offending. In a t-Group communication is open and
unrestricted: human value is not linked to the way one presents oneself,
but to the way one tries to constantly do things better. Problem evaluations
never presuppose the bad will or limited capacities of somebody, and suggestions
are accepted as constructive contributions. This vulnerable communication
only is possible because there is an unconditional, positive ("empathetic")
approach of all group members.
The co-responsibility is essential in a t-Group. As there is no hierarchy nor ruling committee
in t-Groups, the constant solicitude and concern of every group member
is indispensable. Every group member is supposed to behave continuously
as if he was the ruler of teh group, responsible for everything. This is
one of the most lacking qualities in nowadays' culture and society, not
only because our modern culture stresses spontaneity and freedom ("when
you're not motivated for something, you're not supposed to do it", "freedom
is your fundamental right"), but also because the secondary culture we
live in generally doesn't appreciate co-responsability, especially not
if it is creative, because it is threatening for those in charge. The lack
of this quality probably will be the most nocive factor for the survival
of g-Groups, and a relapse into a more stable secondary interactive style
is always looming.
The openness of a t-Group probably is the most favourable condition, allowing inspiration
and realism. A closed community often tends to blur and to eliminate, at
least temporarily, problems it can't cope with. This closedness (and censorship)
sometimes is compulsory, to prevent that group members become conscious
of other possibilities, and tend to criticize the own hierarchy and traditions.
formation of t-Groups
Two situations are
possible: two or more people form a new relationship or t-Group,
and an existent group makes the transition towards a t-Group, on the insistence
of one or more members of that group. In fact, there are two fertile moments
to install better structures and functioning rules: the moment of the start,
and the occurrence of severe crises that did not split up the group.
of a new t-Group. Installing a "t-Level" often occurs more or less
spontaneously. In fact, the behavioural "programme" for tertiary functioning
is, to a large extent, already present in many people, and is activated
by enthousiasm, idealism, amorousness, religious ardour, i.e. the illusion
that the realization of a dream is close. Although this spontaneous tertiary
ability is not very resistent against frustrations, irritations and deceptions,
temptations, divergencies and "fundamental" disagreement, those communicational
and organizational problems usually don't arise at the beginning of a group's
existence. This explains why many new groups, including an amorous relationship,
tend to function on a quasi-tertiary level during the first years of their
existence. In fact, any threatening problem is unconsciously but successfully
avoided by composing the group with people that are very complementary
in motivation and personality, and therefore do not, at least for some
appreciable lapse of time, experience the need for sensitive communication
or personal growth.
Especially when a
group is strongly motivated by a recent common negative experience, motivation
to perform better is high. And many groups start with founders leaving
an earlier bad experience. The same situation occurs when the group or
relationship starts with a new source of satisfaction, e.g. sexuality.
After some years,
most of those groups don't succeed in solving the aforementioned problems,
and tend to regress to a more stable, secondary level of functioning.
from secondary to tertiary groups. As the levcel of group functioning
easily can be adjusted at the moments of foundation and crises, the smooth
transition from a secondary Group to a t-Group most often may prove difficult.
Often, the foundation of a new t-Group may prove easier.
It always starts
with one or more group members (or a partner of the relationship) who wants
the group to evolve. If there are perceived problems in the group, a good
argument is at hands. But if everything is OK, the rest of the group may
experience the overt or covert attempts aiming at introducing changes as
uneasy, and this may evolve to an isolation of even an ejection of the
Factors that may
facilitate a smoother transition from a secondary to a tertiary level of
1. conceptual insights
of the majority of members about the value and desirability of a tertiary
level, and the conviction that everybody will feel better that way. Counsellors
and trainers for the professional group or relationship may prove useful.
2. inspiring contacts
with other groups or relationships that function that way.
3. occasional activities
and challenges that naturally bring the group to a closer communication
and an improved emotional bond.
Inquiry is a style of knowledge gathering during a group process.
"The CI concept of inquiry is based on an extended epistemology of four
ways of knowing - experiential (participation in being), presentational (artistic), propositional (intellectual), and practical (knowing
how to, skills). I regard the experiential and practical outcomes - i.e.
transformations of being, and skills - as more basic than the presentational
and propositional outcomes of an inquiry. " (John Heron).
The only conceptual
difference between the CI and the integrative approach is that John Heron
discerns 4 aspects, where I tend to include his experiential and
practical aspects can be seen as one. But this nuance is probably verbiage.
The CI approach seems
to be characterized by the explicit and implicit application of some tertiary
- the groups starts
without a leading expert, but with a number of peers in a certain kind
of experience. This approach follows the work hypothesis that insight can
arise from intelligent reflection on experience.
- integrative knowledge
is not restricted to its intellectual dimension (what I call C), but includes
experience (B, as well the practical skills as the active participation)
and emotional exposure (A).
- the conviction
that contributions from the different group members are rather complementary
than mutually exclusive. A consensus is reached by integration rather than
- the idea that
the process of insight is a cyclic or spiral. A group of cooperative inquiry
typically loops through several cycles, alternating experience and integrative
- the conviction
that the best study ground is experience. Although discussion groups may
take any subject as theme for reflection, the most fertile and effective
will probably be the personal and/or active professional experiences of
the peer group.
- in the description
of Cooperative Inquiry groups it is explcitly mentioned that, as a complement
to experience and intellectual insight, a symbolic and aesthetic way of
understanding is preferrable to one-sided theory, and even better than
only experience and insight.
- if the gathered
knowledge by such a group is really full-fledged, the new insights will
immediately lead to changes in the concrete behaviour of the members.
As t-Groups, CI-groups
are applications of a integrative definition of the insight process. At
first glance, a CI-group seems to stress more the intellectual aspect ("inquiry"),
with experience (skills and active paticipation) and symbolic practice
as useful, and indeed indispensable, tools. But, as John Heron stresses,
"CI regards the experiential and practical outcomes - i.e. transformations
of being, and skills - as more basic than the presentational and propositional
outcomes of an inquiry. "
On the other hand,
a t-Group immediately aims at the three aspects without priority for one
of those three. Hence, a CI-group will probably more easily be accepted
in our rational culture. A CI-group can be a good starting form for, or
transition into a t-Group.
2. The Peer-to-Peer
(P2P) communication style. This style of contructive intellectual interaction,
described by some authors including Michel
Bauwens (webpage under construction), is of course completely cpmpatyoible
with the t-Group concept.
P2P is founded on
the conviction that human cultural and scientific progress should be best
served by open communication, open source, direct (non-hierarchical) traffic
of ideas and goods. P2P is the logical consequence of Internet, at least
the way that his founders (Tim Berners-Lee and
Calliau) conceived it. It states that, by principle, knowledge about
good human functioning and interaracting is primarily the moral property
of humankind, and not of juridically defended commercial groups that sell
of licence it. Suppose the Latin alphabet or science were commercially
protected. But P2P doesn't describe group functioning, in real or virtual
groups. And, as CI-groups, the stress resides on knowledge. P2P is rather
a paradigm, a core concept in tertiary functioning.
Our society progressively
globalizes, and evolves towards a Noosphere, i.e. a conscious strive to
universal integration. With the collapse of traditional religous and political
systems, which failed to keep up with quickly evolving technical and sociocultural
progress, the need for a modern and practical spirituality emerges, and
a tolerant but realistic idealism tends to replace the obsolete political
discourse. Moreover, modern media, and especially the Internet are very
strong stimulators towards such a world-wide cooperation. The question
how t-Groups, real and virtual, emerge and evolve, seems to be surprisingly
actual and fundamental for everybody who feels engaged in a constructive
future of humankind.
Rotation by Sophie