Group Questing or Twelving
Proposal for a large-scale small-group development process
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Variant subsequently published as Facilitating Group Formation in Transnational Associations, 1977, 7-8, pp. 302-304 [as a PDF version]
It will be assumed that the readers of this note have information enabling
them to accept the following points without substantiating arguments:h
1. Individuals in society are increasingly isolated in terms of meaningful
inter-personal interaction despite the extensive development of communications
of every kind. It is therefore appropriate to consider processes whereby such
Interaction could be facilitated or catalyzed.
2. The manner in which individuals are isolated in society issuch that
they tend to form links amongst people with similar backgrounds, situations
or goals thus depriving themselves of meaningful exposure to individuals with
different world-views with whom interaction may be mutually beneficial and
richer in other ways. It is therefore appropriate to consider processes whereby
adequate mixing (randomization) could occur but balanced by some measure of
3. Society is so structured that new Inter-personal Interaction may well
be perceived as a threat to existing relationships between people. It is therefore
appropriate to consider processes which provide some measure of protection
for existing relationships whilst allowing new relationships to develop.
4. Small groups (of approximately 7-15 people) tend to provide the context
within which new degrees of inter-personal interaction are explored. It is
therefore appropriate to consider processes which Increase awareness on the
part of group participants of the dynamics and structure of the group.
5. The increasing complexity of society demands of individuals an increased
ability to respond appropriately to that complexity rather than closing themselves
off from it. It is therefore appropriate to consider processes which help
people to increase their ability to handle social complexity, particularly
within and with the support of a group .
6. In the face of the wide range of social problems each individual feels
increasingly unable to undertake any remedial or compensatory action of any
significance - particularly when the experts disagree on the course of action
which should be taken and when political or governmental action appears to
be of questionable value. It is thetefore appropriate to consider processes
which facilitate the emergence ofgroups whose own dynamics lead, if appropriate
and desired, to the formulation of goals and to the implementation of projects
- namely to the emergence of self-motivated and self-aware groups progressively
better able to evaluate the utility and value of their own activities.
7. Whilst it is possible to develop and Implement small scale (laboratory)
experiments to respond to the conditions identified above, the value of such
exercises is limited unless they have built-in characteristics which make
it possible to use them on a large scale. It is therefore appropriate to consider
processes which are largely self-energizing, which do not require a large
investment, and which are desired by, rather than imposed upon, those for
whom they are conceived. They should have widespread appeal (with a built
in "snow-ball" effect) in order to be of significance at this time.
8. It is a characteristic of the times that any such process is immediately
suspect, and therefore of questionable value, if it is perceived as constituting
an imposition upon those involved, or a form of "programming". It
is therefore appropriate to consider processes in which what must necessarily
be imposed (for there to be the minimal structure far the organization of
the process) should have the characteristics of the rules or regulations of
a new social game. The content of that game is what emerges from the interactions
in which the individuals engage.
A process with the characteristics identified above could be initiated
or more cities as follows:
1. Establishment of a small
secretariat (possibly on a part-time basis not
requiring rental of office space) with a post office box address (in the
2. Use of small (low-cost)
advertisements in newspapers and
Inviting people to write for further Information.
3. Provision to respondents
of a minimum of documentation explaining
the game process and a specially designed questionnaire.
4. Analysis (by hand or by
computer) of responses in order to determine how
best to involve the person in the process (in exchange for a fee to cover
The process envisaged is as follows:
1 . Individuals writing in for the first time would be allocated (on the basis
of the analysis) to the most appropriate group of 7-15 people.
2. The purpose of the questionnaire
analysis is to recommend the most
appropriate members for each group (however many groups need to be
constituted to accommodate those applying).
3. The purpose of the analysis is only to set up an initial membership
for the group on the basis of criteria which gradually emerge as useful.
(The individual may even specify which criteria he wants to be taken into
consideration from none at all through to an attempt at a very selective match.)
4. Once a group membership is determined, members are Invited by the
secretariat to their initial meeting at some suitable time and in a suitably
neutral place (both could be partially determined by the responses to the
questionnaire). This could, for example, be a restaurant private room
or a hotel small-meeting room. Since the whole process is supposed to be
self-energizing and self-controlling, no representative of the secretariat
need necessarily be present to receive people (although this may be a
preference indicated by the individual).
5. For the people so invited the game process then starts. They may
Individually decide not to reveal their identities by using pseudonyms. They
can engage in any kind of group process that seems appropriate or they can
simply chat over drinks.
6. Following such a meeting, the individuals can then privately assess
the experience and their willingness to participate in a further meeting.
They may anyway decide to do so during their meeting - or at least some may
so agree and make appropriate arrangements. This would call for no intervention
from the secretariat.
7. Group members can however indicate their assessment on a questionnaire
for the secretariat. An individual may thus indicate willingness to participate
in a further meeting of the same group: provided one or more identified (by
code) individuals continue to participate provided one or more identified
(by code) individuals do not also participate provided some other time
or setting is chosen, etc.
Or an individual may indicate the desire to participate in another group:
starting from scratch
provided one or more identified (by code) individuals also participate
provided one or more identified (by code) individuals do not also
8. The secretariat can then analyze the responses received from all individuals
who have participated in meetings of the existing groups using its services
(together with individuals applying for the first time) and can invite a new
combination of people to the next meeting of each group.
9. Clearly the members of a given group may have all individually Indicated
to the secretariat that they wished to meet together again, in which case the
secretariat merely schedules a new meeting. The value of the secretariat in
such cases is to preserve anonymity where desired and to "save face"
where one or more individuals are rejected by the other members of the group.
For in the latter case the rejected individuals will not know whether the group
met again nor will the group know whether in fact it was not the individuals
who indicated that they did not wish to meet again with those remaining.
10. A particular group may therefore not have any degree of permanence.
if ever, until after the first 3 to 5 meetings . For after each meeting
one or more individuals will decide that they prefer not to meet with the
others (or the latter will so decide for them). The "group" present
at each such early meeting may therefore split into 2,3,4 or more sub-groups
and never meet again as such. It is the role of the secretariat to attempt
to match these "grouplets" with other grouplets and individuals
in order to help them to experience other group formations.
11. It is not the function of the secretariat to perform the matching
process in terms of its own definition of some desirable goal (e.g. stable
groups of a certain size). Rather it is up to the individual, in association
with those with whom he links in the game process, to define to the secretariat
which strategy he wants to pursue in the game (at any one time). He or she
may select strategies such as:
allocation to group:
o on an arbitrary (random) basis
o on a highly selective (deterministic) basis
o on some Intermediate (organic) basis
re-allocation to new group after every meeting ('dilettante' strategy)
attempt to form stable group with certain characteristics such as:
particular size (7, 8, 9, etc.)
particular combination of characteristics (e.g. mix of introverts and
extraverts, or intellectually and emotionally oriented persons)
attempt to form stable group with certain definite goals or activities,
or some combination of such activities (e.g. in a meaningful cycle).
The individual may wish to combine several such strategies or possibly to
participate in several groups on the basis of different strategies (in order
to have an experience more complete than he or she is able to achieve within
12. The secretariat may
collect information on different
strategies that have
been tried and propose them to individuals in any documentation
provided about the game process.
Examples of strategies might be those
defined in Appendix 1 and 2 .
13. Every Individual can thus experiment with
the group experience in
whatever way they find meaningful.
The game process as a whole
carries them through any experience which is a partial failure without
rejecting them from the game as a whole.
At any time they, and the
group with which they are associated, can break out of the game
process and meet as an Independent group - using the services of the
secretariat only if and whenever
The proposal as indicated would initiate a process which could provide a
very rich experience. It should be clear that it would also constitute a
very powerful learning environment. By permitting, or even encouraging,
Individuals to experience "superficial" strategies, they are given
opportunity to move on to more meaningful strategies as soon as they
consider it appropriate. The more
experienced and "mature" groups will
in fact have the possibility of
exploring the nature of their maturity as a group
and of defining strategies or processes to achieve even greater maturity.
(For example, some members might deliberately undergo experiences in a
number of less mature groups before meeting again).
The objective behind the proposal would therefore be to speed up
the group learning experience so as to facilitate the emergence of many mature,
self-aware, self-motivated groups - without in fact imposing any particular
procedures to that end.
Any such particular procedures would merely be documented as game
which could be explored. Clearly it would be of great importance to document
the maturer game options.
1. Individuals entering
the game process may feel more secure if they can
have some "personalized evaluation" of a group (e.g. many may not
wish to break out of the class of people to which they are accustomed).
Equally a well-established but delicately-structured group may feel
happier with some such preliminary evaluation (or interview) before
opening themselves to a newcomer.
Procedures to cover this could be
usefully examined, together with the
2. Several kinds of computer analysis, if any, could be developed
and individuals (or groups) may perhaps specify which kind they prefer to
be used in their own case for the matching process.
3. Clearly the proposal has some
procedural parallels to that of computer
dating. Experience in this domain should be examined as well as the
problems of distinguishing this game process from computer dating in
the public eye.
4. Once experience with the process has been obtained, other dimensions
there may be a case for attempting matches between groups to constitute
"groups of groups".
much may be learnt concerning the problems of how to constitute a viable
group with the minimum preliminary experimentation.
5. During some stage of their experience in a group, participants
may feel it useful to benefit from the experience of different kinds of experts
in group dynamics, or those more familiar with the game process once it has
developed a core of expertise. This sort of service could be arranged by
6. It would be important to provide safeguards against "Invasion"
of he game process by those wishing to distort it to their own ends or to
victimize newcomers in some way. In one sense this could be seen as an aspect
of the game process itself, namely an influence to be responded to appropriately.
However, to the extent that it reduces the quality of the individuals wishing
to participate, any such influence should be countered by the secretariat
or channelled into a parallel game process.
7. The method by which a person indicates by questionnaire the preference
for the future composition of the group need not be as simplistic as the classic
"black ball" approach ("if he is in I do not want to be").
One scale of preferences might be:
if A is in, I do not want to participate
if at least 6 are in favour of A, I will agree to participate
unless at least 6 existing members continue, I do not want to participate
unless A is in, I do not want to participate.
Other possibilities could be examined.
One game strategy that individuals may wish to adopt is to attempt to develop
their own participation within a particular group to the point of being able
to respond to all other group members individually and simultaneously.
In a normal group situation an individual usually responds to one person
whilst treating the others as a collectivity to which he responds as to a
single entity. At best this results in an "I-Thou" situation
with the other members of the group as a supportive context. The ability
to respond may however encompass two people whilst still treating the
remainder as a collectivity. This is clearly more complex and demands a
more sophisticated grasp of the situation. This ability may be developed
to encompass the interactions with 3, 4 or more people - but at some point
the individual will be able to extend it no further. For some, it is already
a problem to respond adequately to one, let alone any greater number.
The purpose of the game strategy would be to see whether a group could be
developed in which each individual could handle interactions with all the
others in the group without "collectivizing" those excluded.
This would then be a very mature group since each would be very sensitive
to the patterns of interactions and to the synergetic implications.
The secretariat would establish the initial group which after a few meetings
would have a permanent core of members. The core membership would have
to explore progressively their interactions amongst themselves and with newcomers
presented by the game process as others dropped out. The challenge for
the group would be to determine how much dissonance they could collectively
integrate - given that the more diverse the membership the more powerful and
mature the group has the potential of being. On the other hand, in
contrast to therapy groups, the individuals must evaluate:
(i) whether they do not wish to "carry" some people in
that group who are apparently holding back the group integration process (in
which case the person would be dropped), or
(ii) whether the group would benefit by engaging in a deliberate
therapeutic process to overcome such apparent obstacles to greater integration
(if that person's potential contribution seemed important).
This decision process obliges individuals in the group to assess their relationships
and functions within the group to work out whether they can work with all
existing group members to achieve greater group Integration, whether they
can only usefully do so if one or more of the others no longer participate,
or whether they themselves should opt out of that particular group and request
allocation to another group.
Another game strategy that individuals may wish
to adopt is to request
allocation to a group on the basis of their zodiacal sign. In such
limited to 12 people, each person would have (1) a different sun sign, or
alternatively (ii) a different
The challenge in such a group would be for each Individual to explore
("feel out") the characteristics of the other members of the group to
he or she responded (i) positively or negatively, or (ii) sensed some other
degree of commonality. Participants
could observe the dynamics of the
group process in terms of how coalitions formed between representatives
of different signs, on what basis, and how these interacted with other
coalitions. They could also observe
how representatives of different
signs contributed to different aspects of the group process.
Using some of the perceptions of the strategy described in Appendix I,
participants could try to move from simple polarity (2-component relationships)
to triplicity relationships (3-component),
on to quadruplicity relationships
(4-component). The challenge would
then be to see whether 2, 3 and
4-component relationships could be encompassed and blended within the
group in order to interlink all sign representatives - and if not, then why
As with the previous strategy,
individuals would have to decide (i) whether
they could continue to work with all existing group members to achieve
Integration of all sign energies, (ii) whether they could only usefully do so
if one or more of the others
were replaced, or (iii) whether they themselves
should opt out of that particular group and request allocation to another.
Individuals would have to learn to discriminate, in assessing others present,
between (i) normal sign interactions (e.g.
sympathy, antipathy) and (ii) interactions
due to the excessive sign energy of a particular person probably containable by
the group, and (iii) interactions due to the excessive sign energy of a
person probably uncontainable by the group.
The group would function as a
filtering mechanism to select a range of participants in the greatest degree of
harmony. (Whether any such group
achieved harmony because strong represen-
tatives of a particular range of signs had been excluded would be the group's
problem and choice. A group might even
be constituted of 12 people of the
same sun sign but of different ascendant signs.)
Integration problems might be such that, for example, it may be necessary for
all the 4 fire sign representatives to be replaced as a grouplet (which might
then relate better to another group).
The game process would facilitate the
filtering and matching of such grouplets leading to the progressive refinements
The challenge would be to experience participation in an integrated
12 people representing very different, but complementary, energies - and to
discover what such a group might decide to do,
if anything, once it had
discovered Itself and achieved a measure of group consciousness.
Groups oriented in this way should be
able to develop game processes to test
their degree of integration (rather as a juggler may test his proficiency by
determinig how many balls he can keep moving). Such group games might
show up, for example, that one individual could only
handle a 2-component
relationship, although in working with two
others in that group the three of
them could manage a 5-component relationship.
The challenge would be to explore and play with such possibilities and
see what kinds of groups and understandings developed as a result - given
that a group could move in any direction it found meaningful.
consequence of the game process is that it takes the load off
the 2-person relationship as it normally exists in society.
relationships fall in one way or another
because they cannot give full
expression to the range of meaningful energies which may emerge in other
interactions. However, such other interactions can only
vicarious or Illicit within existing structrures, which
must protect the
In the game process, and within a particular group, 3-person, 4-person, etc.
relationships are formed and supply a context for other 2-person relationships.
Relationships involving 3,4,5 etc. people have different degrees of stability
within the group. It may in fact be
hypothesized that it is only in a
12-component relationship that polarity (2 component), triplicity
and quadruplicity (4-component) are adequately blended and interrelated
so that a completely new level of meaning can safely emerge.