Individual & Group: How to create win-win scenarios for both?

Complexity and Dao Series #2

Gemma Jiang, PhD
11 min readJun 9, 2022


Taoist Yin&Yang

In this blog post, I continue the conversation from Yin & Yang: A Dynamic Whole by digging deep into another Yin&Yang pair: individual freedom and group belongingness. Like all classic Yin&Yang pairs, these two elements initially have a seemingly opposing relationship that in actuality often have a complementary relationship. Both elements are important. Understanding the inner dynamics of their relationships presents opportunities for win/win scenarios.

I am attracted to this pair due to my personal cultural experience in both the East and the West, as well as my professional experience as a team scientist that routinely faces the task of interweaving individuals into coherent teams. In the following paragraphs, I will share some interesting observations about cultural influence and two strategies to create win-win scenarios for individuals and teams you work with.

Imbalance as related to cultural bias

Are you biased towards conforming to a group at the expense of individual freedom? Or are you biased towards being different from everyone else whether or not the difference has inherent value? Identifying the imbalance is the first step towards restoring balance. Recognizing invisible cultural influence can help devise individualized responses.

Born and raised in China till early adulthood, with ten years of my adult life spent in the United States, I have witnessed the influence of cultural biases. In East Asian culture, group harmony is the priority; in western culture, individuality is the priority.

East Asia: groups over individuals

A personal story will help to illustrate the point of how group harmony can turn into group coerciveness that overlooks individual needs.

About five years ago, I was traveling alone in the southeast part of China. One day I grouped with some fellow travelers on a long bike ride around a famous lake. We had a good time, but one hour into the trip, I did not feel well and wanted to turn back. The rest of the group insisted that I stay with them. I literally felt the pull from the group, that coercive pressure to stay, so…



Gemma Jiang, PhD

Senior Team Scientist, Colorado State University; Complexity Leadership Scholar and Practitioner; also at