Five men are walking across the Golden Gate Bridge on an outing organized by their wives who are college friends. The women moved ahead in animated conversation. One man describes the engineering involved in the bridge's long suspension. Another man points to the changing tide lines below. A third asked if they've heard of the new phone apps for walking tours. The fourth observes how refreshing it is to talk with people who aren't lawyers like him. Yes, we tend to notice the details that most relate to our work or our life experience.

It is also no surprise that we instinctively look for those who share our interests. This is especially true in times of increasing pressure and uncertainty. We have an understandable tendency in such times to seek out the familiar and comfortable as a buffer against the disruptive changes surrounding us.

In so doing we can inadvertently put ourselves in a cage of similarity that narrows our peripheral vision of the world and our options. The result? We can be blindsided by events and trends coming at us from directions we did not see. The more we see reinforcing evidence that we are right in our beliefs the more rigid we become in defending them. That prevents us from learning more widely and pulling in unexpectedly allies. Yet if we learn how to, we can collectively see more sides to a situation and thus make smarter decisions faster.

Hint: If you are part of a large association, company, synagogue, civic group or special interest club, encourage the organization to support the creation of self-organized, special interest groups of no more than seven people, providing a few suggestions of they could operate. Such loosely affiliated small groups within a larger organization deepen a sense of belonging, help more people learn from diverse others and stay open to growing through that shared learning and collaboration.

That's one way that members of Rick Warren's huge congregation at Saddleback Church (average church attendance is over 25,000) have maintained a close-knit feeling yet continue to grow in fresh ways. Similarly the innovative outdoor gear company Gore-Tex has nimbly grown by using their version of self-organized groups of 150 or less within the larger corporation. In fact, they give grants to those who further their learning about that philosophy when adapted to outdoor adventure, traveling in compact groups of "close friends who had mutual respect and trust for one another.”

Author's Bio: 

Kare Anderson’s TED talk on The Web of Humanity: Be an Opportunity Maker has attracted over 2.5 million views. She is an Emmy-winning former NBC and Wall Street Journal journalist, now a speaker on connective behavior and quotability. Her TEDx talk on Redefine Your Life Around a Mutuality Mindset is now a standard session for employees and invited clients at 14 national and global corporations. Her ideas have been cited in 16 books. Her clients are as diverse as Salesforce, Novartis, and The Skoll Foundation. She was a founding board member of Annie’s Homegrown and co-founder of nine women’s political PACs. For Obama's first presidential campaign she created over 208 issues formation teams. She was Pacific Telesis' first Cable TV and Wideband Division Director and a founding board member of Annie's Homegrown. Kare is the author of How We Can Be Greater Together, Opportunity Makers, Mutuality Matters, Moving From Me to We, Beauty Inside Out, Walk Your Talk, Getting What You Want, and Resolving Conflict Sooner. She serves on the boards of The Business Innovation Factory, TEDxMarin, and World Affairs Council Marin.