Technique 1.87 Collective Immunity Map (for groups)


Basically  immunity mapping for groups is an extension of the immunity map for individuals, ie it is best that each individual in the group prepares their own individual immunity map and then this is followed by a collective immunity map for the whole group. An added advantage for each individual to do their own immunity map that is to get them familiar with the process and the thinking involved before they tackle the collective exercise.

When doing a collective community map, you need to consider if there are subgroups within the collective group. If there are identifiable subgroups, each subgroup needs to construct its own immunity map, before doing a collective for the whole group.

The more specific the improvement goal, the more powerful the diagnostic will be.

Worksheet building your own collective immunity map*i

Improvement focus
(brainstorming possibilities)
Our improvement goal
(collective commitment)*ii
Our collective fearless inventory
(doing/not doing instead)*iii
Collective competing
Collective big
5. SMART*vi
      (worry box)    


i) As you work through the worksheet, there are collective conversations about inputs into each column. This is different from doing the worksheet as an individual where there is no collective conversation.
"...each column provokes conversation that has the value of the group's collective understanding and cohesion..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

ii) Improvement goal

Need to consider the brainstorming possibilities, individual improvement goals and individuals' thoughts on the collective improvement goal. This is not an easy task, as each individual will have his own perception of reality. For example, the goal may become more entrepreneurial. This can have different meanings to different people, ie

- it may mean hunting new clients or new kinds of clients

- developing new products and services for existing clients

- reinventing the organisation, etc

Some key questions to help select the collective improvement goal

- Is there agreement that this is an area that needs improving?

- Do we have control over achieving this goal, ie it is not dependent upon outside/external parties?

- How important are the benefits (payoffs, cost reductions, etc) of achieving this goal?

"... The more urgent and important the goal, and the more shared this perspective, the better..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

iii) Fearless inventory

Need to answer the following question
"...What are the things we collectively do, will fail to do, that work against this goal..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

Make a list of behaviours that either support or work against the improvement goal. The more entries on the list, the better for the analysis.

NB Need to focus on things that work against achieving the improvement role.

Don't venture into problem-solving like explaining your ineffectiveness and/or developing strategies to handle them.

The aim is to complete the list, ie as descriptive as possible.

It is about collective, not individual, behaviours
"...this form of discussion paradoxically does not create discouragement but more typically relief that you are finally naming and taking responsibility......You are doing it in a way that makes no one person the villain or victim, and you are surviving and taking a hard look into the mirror. If anything, a group usually feels more cohesive after this fearless inventory than before..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

iv) Competing commitments

Need to identify and acknowledge the self-protective, social motivation(s) in the competing commitments. Some examples

- senior faculty members at a university wanting to create a more hospitable professional environment with junior members had to overcome their mindset of preserving the privileges of seniority

- an organisation needing to change their mindset of having someone to blame other than themselves, when something went wrong, ie
" order to avoid the overt collusion that they were ineffective leaders, they covertly led ineffectively..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

- teachers wanting to protect their students from failure rather than helping them to exceed expectations (the latter is seen as putting undue pressure on the students)

- staff members who are reluctant to speaking out publicly, as they could embarrass themselves and others

Many of these self-protecting motivations are not obvious to the participants until they go through this process.
"...all these behaviours have perfectly good reason behind them......they are highly protective of other shared motivations..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

Unfortunately the self-protecting behaviours are obstacles preventing the group from achieving its performance goals.

Don't forget to fill in the 'worry box', ie what would the group be most worried about in changing its mindsets, behaviours, etc?

Some examples can include

- personal agendas being in conflict with collective ones

- self-interest dominating collective interest

- not considering all points of view

- not consulting and including everyone in decision-making

- favouring individual's self-reliance rather than collective commitment and collaboration, etc

You have to do more than eliminate these obstructive behaviours; you have to really understand what is behind these obstructive behaviours, ie be a scuba-diver rather than snorkeler or a laser rather than a floodlight!!!!!. You need to look at the real causes rather than just symptoms: like if you have a headache, you could handle the symptoms by taking a painkiller but this treatment will not solve the causes of the headache!!!!!
"...the group sees how it is actually trying to move in opposite directions at the same time, and understand why everyone feels stuck in this conundrum......each hidden commitment......motivates an obstructive......behaviour; how each commitment provides a braking action against the gas pedal of the...... improvement goal..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

"...if the fears do reflect worrisome risks, threats and dangers to the group's psychological and material safety, then you have succeeded with this step; now you should look to see whether the way you translate your anxieties into competing commitments retains (even elaborates upon) the full force of those can all see a coherent system that successfully manufactures non-change; and you all feel intrigued, provoked, and engaged with the picture you have created. If this is so, you should also have a strong interest in answering this question: how do we get out of this?..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

v) Collective big assumption

This involves building a bridge from diagnosis to prescription around change.

NB Need to be careful of using a technical means of handling and adaptive change (see earlier)
" with overturning individual immunities, we need a point of entry that can enable your group to impact and alter the system, rather than being captured by the system......sincerity and even urgency are not enough. The collective mindset that is 'protecting' your group from progress on its goal needs to change. When you begin to address that immunity, you will unleash a cascade of unplanned, unpledged behaviour that sweeps up improvement goal and moves you far beyond it..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

Need to check what is in the competing commitments column and ask
"...What are the assumptions we must be taking as true if we hold these competing commitments?..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

The big assumption(s) need to meet the following criteria, ie if it is taken as unquestionably true, then one or more of the competing commitments is inevitable. Thus undermining the improvement goal.

NB This is not a problem-solving exercise nor a debate on the validity of a given big assumption. It is the accuracy of the big assumption that is important.

Some questions that will help that this juncture, ie
"...- do we feel that these aspects of our mindset are seriously impairing our effectiveness?
    - do we feel like we could make a big difference if we were able to release ourselves from these group beliefs?
    - do we feel that we owe it to ourselves to see if we can alter any of these?..."

Robert Kegan et al, 2009

Need answers to these questions to help with the diagnosis and to move to treatment. Also, it allows another chance to test the validity of the selected improvement goal.


Now need to test the big assumptions. Use experiments and action tests to shed light on the appropriateness of the big assumptions.

S = Safe (tests are not terminal of the group, ie they will survive to run another day)
M = Modest (starting the journey with a small step)
A = Actionable (be conducted in a timely fashion
R = Research (priority is collection of data)
T = Test (evaluating likely benefits rather than developing a strategy improving behaviours)

"...after the experiments and tests have been run, it is important to bring the results back to the group to connect them to the question, 'what do these results mean for our big assumptions? rather than 'are we making progress on our goal'..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

It is important to challenge the validity of really big assumptions.

In summary

"...your most transformative group experiments and tests tend to grow out of the re-occurring recognition that 'here we are again, operating out of that big assumption'. As people get sharper at recognising their big assumptions in action, their insights often prompt spontaneous tests and experiments. 'What if we deliberately acted somewhat contrary to that assumption and see what happens?'..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

Looking at seemingly intractable organisational challenges requires a 2-prong approach, ie
"...Individuals working on their personal immunity to change as it relates to a group improvement aspiration, combined with the group as a whole developing a picture of its collective humanity to change around the same aspiration..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

"...Groups often spend a lot of unproductive time talking - with no tangible results - about their most difficult challenges. If that same time were used to build supports for overturning individual immunities, and to create opportunities for the group to explore its big assumptions as part of its shared language and collective routines, then the immunities framework can become a Rover structure the linking personal learning to organisational success...... working adaptively on adaptive challenges means helping to bring about...... the ongoing growth of the mind. It means building increasingly complex capabilities, individually and collectively, which are portable to all regions of one's living..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

An example of a university librarian's collective immunity map

Improvement focus
(brainstorming possibilities)
Our improvement goal
(collective commitment)
Our collective fearless inventory
(doing/not doing instead)
Collective competing
Collective big
  - to be less on the periphery,
- to be less on the receiving end of faculty
- administrative decisions,
to be more of a full partner in the governance of the University
we do not actually press for a seat at the various tables that run the University we are committed to taking no action that may expose us as frauds or naive we share faculty and administrators would have very high expectations of us and expect us to meet them and easily; would think much less well of last week it is, and that we probably can't beat them
    we do not speak out when given an opportunity to influence decisions we are committed to not being embarrassed in front of our clients and bosses we assume if we say something stupid once, all is lost - this is how we will be regarded forevermore
(source: Robert Kegan et al, 2009)   we do not proactively develop our own positions on issues of importance to us, even when we know they are coming we are committed to not discovering we lack what it takes to be real partners in the governance of the school we assume we must be immediate expert at everything, ie we are permitted no learning curve on anything

we assume that 'what it takes' is a fixed or inherited trait, ie it can't be developed



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