About The Conference


Invitation to Prospective Members

Dear Prospective Participant,

In a world of increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, our collective choices are influenced by unconscious hierarchies and networks that arise from cultural fears and desires. As a neuroscientist, I am intrigued by how we make decisions. What fuels our choices that result in binary actions of for or against, faster or slower, and yes or no? How are we a microcosm of the macrocosm? 


Join us this year to deepen our understanding of group mind and how each of us are pulled in and out of roles that shape group outcomes . . .

With our tribal and evolutionarily-influenced behaviors, how do groups and organizations adapt to new technologies and virtual connections? As a physician, I realize that our heart, gut, and sweaty palms inform our brains about danger and safety -- 

 . . . and how our collective body, the container and boundary of each group, grows more complex as we move from concrete physical to virtual time and space.

What are an organization’s parts and whole with both physical and virtual boundaries? What are realities and structures in groups, where do our primitive drives erupt, and who/what contribute to the physical leaders and followers that emerge?  As a physician scientist, I continue to be intrigued by what we cannot measure or quantify in contrast to what we can. Why do groups do what they do? What is repeated or done with meanings made from representations and the unknown? With experience and humility, we see more that is mysterious and attempt to integrate multiple dimensions.

The spirit explores “the whole that is greater than the sum of its parts”. 

Hierarchies of the Collective: Mind Body Spirit is a unique Group Relations Conference in the Tavistock tradition that studies the rise, shifts and flow of authority and leadership dynamics through our experience of our collective mind, body, and spirit. Focusing on what is above and below the surface of our consciousness, we will listen to the different perspectives and experiences that our bodies, mind and spirit reveal. Analogous to how our first/second/third person perspectives add depth to our language communication, our spirit/body/mind offer different and sometimes conflicting perspectives that deepen our understanding of community and self.

Our daily lives are filled with such complexity and diversity. How can we work with and honor our splits while simultaneously seeking integration?

Effective leadership requires more than taking a stance on one side or the other regarding what is observed to be real. Leadership for change requires knowing when to separate and integrate mind/body/spirit, managing the resulting personal and collective ambivalence, confusion and chaos, and learning how to hold oneself steady to navigate, both above and below the surface, through the shifting prisms and shadows of our personal and collective perspectives and conflicting experiences. We will explore the light and shadow side of leadership and followership and consider how we can be accountable for the political impact that our collective actions and inactions have on current systemic dynamics

We invite you to share this information with individuals and groups who will be interested in attending this upcoming conference. If you want to develop your capacity to lead with mind, body and spirit: Join us! 






Suma Jacob, MD, PhD

Conference Director

Suma Jacob_edited.png

What can I learn in

this conference?

  • The dynamics of managing boundaries, authority, role, and task

  • The implicit hierarchies in the room and in the group’s culture and how hierarchies and culture develop in real time in this conference

  • The group mind, body and spirit

  • How perceptions of social characteristics and identities can influence role-taking and the process of authorization and whether uncommon characteristics are ignored or overemphasized

  • How groups and individuals interpret, use, and work with complex information and how complexity leads to cross-categorization where more assumptions are made, things overlooked and stereotypes perpetuated

  • How to manage myself in role in a constantly changing environment

  • How to work with the group mind, body, or spirit when it pulls me to act on its behalf; what occurs if I do something else? How do I work with the mind, body, spirit of myself and the group?

  • The similarities and differences between authority, power, and leadership

  • How to work with competition, collaboration, conflict, coalition-building, and delegation

  • The connections and disconnections between the process of being authorized and taking up authority and what to do when these do not align

  • How to apply what I learn to situations back at home, work, and my communities


Primary Task

The primary task of this conference is to study the conscious and unconscious development and exercise of authority, leadership, power, and justice as it occurs over the life of the conference and is expressed in mind, body and spirit.


The purpose of the conference is to enable participants to improve their leadership and organizational effectiveness by providing experiential opportunities to learn about the rational and irrational ways that organizations and groups function. This conference provides the opportunity to study the impact group processes have on the exercise of authority, particularly as it relates to the experience of power and justice in our complex world and is expressed in mind, body and spirit.



The conference is designed to be a temporary organization, or system, which serves as a microcosm of larger organizations, systems, and societies in the world and is the context for group-level analysis. In the conference system, learning is experiential and based on reflection-in-action, which means that there will be no presentations given by experts to direct and organize one’s learning. Instead, learning occurs when participants focus on their experiences in the moment, and using their experience as evidence, dialogue with others to negotiate meaning and boundaries in real time. Participants will gain insight into the conscious and unconscious processes that influence their leadership style. This learning is done in the context of the evolving and changing culture of the conference system and through the inter-personal and inter-group relations that develop within the conference as an organization.

Learning Through Research

Systematically investigating aspects of conference experience facilitates multi-dimensional and multi-perspectivist discoveries about learning through change. In the current world, data may be collected about groups and individuals with or without explicit consent. In contrast, participants in this conference have the opportunity to voluntarily participate in pre- and post-conference surveys by signing an informed consent document.


Our research consultant and conference staff will follow the rules and ethics of confidentiality and refrain from disclosing personally identifying information in presentations or publications that interpret data about how we learn in groups. In addition, participants will have the option to receive direct individual feedback about their pre- and post-conference learning through their own survey results. During the conference, Seth Harkins will be observing staff meetings and select events in the role of researcher.