Open Source Session
Set Up Guide


Two monks were traveling down a deep muddy road in heavy rain when they came upon a lovely young girl in a silk komono who was unable to cross the road. The elder monk said, “Come on, girl.” Then he lifted her in his arms and carried her to the other side. The younger monk was speechless until later that night when he said to his elder, “We monks do not go near females, especially young lovely ones. It's too dangerous. Why did you do that?” The elder monk replied, “I left the girl on the other side of the road. Why are you still carrying her?”


This parable points to a fundamental aspect of human nature in that sometimes we attach ourselves so strongly to ideas that we can’t respond positively to new realities. The elder monk had no attachments. He was able to act in the moment. The younger monk, however, was so attached to his monastic ideas that he couldn’t see that the girl needed help.




Is it me or is there a really good vibe in here? We’re born — most of us — with the instinct to read-a-room. The cues are sometimes obvious but sometimes they’re so subtle that we’ve invented phrases like, “there's a really good vibe in here”. And like many things that we intuitively know there is scientific research that points to cognitive functions and neurobiological mechanisms that explain how we are able to read intention or emotional residue and other big words that just mean 'vibes', dude.




When my son was two years-old and would play with friends, the moment any of them began to pair off or lose focus, he would raise his arms and say, “I all done.” Then he would grab his blanket and go to his room to relax with a film. Usually “The Lion King” as he found “The Little Mermaid” misogynistic. But the point is that, even at two years-old we can sense a shift in a group. And it bothers us. As you can see by his expression in this photo taken shortly after a Lego Group Dynamic had failed.  Yet, every day, in every city in most companies on Earth, we squeeze ourselves into conference rooms for workshops or brainstorming sessions based on department and title and completely ignore our group dynamics instinct. Not to menion our individual creative thinking styles.




How many of you can pull up a memory of having been excluded from a group? Either as a child or even more recently? It’s a visceral memory, right? You can feel it. Now how many of us will admit to having excluded someone for any reason other than that person’s own well-being? I see. Those of you who raised your hands are excluded from this hall. Those of you who have never excluded anyone can stay…both of you. We all know the sting of being left out. So why is it still such a big part of our socialization? Why is it still a driving force in our schools, businesses and politics?   I believe it’s partly due to that sense of belonging— however hollow — that we get when we're exclusive to a group can bring. We're able to suspend compassion for an outcast to feel that belonging.



American psychologist, Abraham Maslow placed belonging as the third most basic Human Need. Just above Food and Security. And belonging to a group was essential for the survival of our species.   Before us humans became, well, human — conscious, self-aware and socially sophisticated—like the need to belong, the instinct to exclude was also essential to our survival. Our ancient ancestors instinctively knew when to banish a member who threatened the tribe by being overly aggressive, contagiously sick or they simply didn’t help gather or hunt for food. There’s an easy teenager joke here but I’m reading the room.   Exclusivity and other fear-based instincts obviously served us well or this hall might have been filled with lions discussing ideas worth spreading.

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© 2013 Tom Ross