It’s a scientific fact that in our universe the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The universe isn’t just a bunch of building blocks, or a bunch of clock parts. It isn’t a machine. Life has a life of its own.
For example, hydrogen plus oxygen equals something completely different than 2 gasses—water, liquid water. The whole that is greater than the sum of its part–is its emergent quality. This is what is called “emergence.” And here is what we know about emergence:
- emerging behavior cannot be predicted—We cannot predict behavior of more complex forms, the whole that emerges from the sum of its parts from looking at the qualities of the simpler parts. You could never have known that by putting hydrogen and oxygen together that you would get this liquid substance called water.
- it arises without warming— For instance, you can’t get an electron to jump from one orbit to another by applying more energy. You can’t make an electron go from one orbit to another by trying harder, by applying more force, or more energy. But you can get an electron to jump by using resonance–a certain vibration, frequency….sound. And there is no warning that this electron is about to jump. It’s like each one of us when we resonate with something and are able to jump to a new level of understanding and involvement. Sometimes I feel like my whole body is vibrating when I resonate with an insight.
- it’s a chaotic process, self-organizing—not linear—we didn’t get the first cell from a bunch of individual bacteria until they self-organized. Some of the bacteria decided to take out the waste, some decided to make food, and some decided to have sex. That all made the first cell with a nucleus capable of reproduction, which eventually emerged into tissues and organs, then systems such as the circulatory system, and then bodies.
- it cannot be reduced to individual parts without losing the emergent quality—obvious again with water, you take away one component and you have two gasses, not water.
This is the true nature of our world. So if we want to get something done, if we want to solve a dilemma, I look for our common resonance, because I know that if we start resonating around any issue, a whole that is greater than the sum of our parts will appear, and there will be an emergent quality about it that could never have been predicted. Meg Wheatley says that there is nothing more powerful than a community discovering what it cares about—precisely the point! This emergent phenomenon is the unleashing the power of community.