Collaboration for Sustainability 3: Who?May 6, 2010 Leave a comment
“In dealing with complex problems, our ability may be bounded, but our diversity is not. Diversity – be it based on identity, training or vocation — may be our best asset.”
– Scott E. Page
In last Thursday’s post, we talked about the importance of developing a shared identity among stakeholders, and doing this early in a collaborative process, as a way of developing greater commitment to collective interests as well as bolstering the inclination to think about and act in accordance with more long-term risks and benefits. Clearly more needs to be said about the WHO that is engaged in this work and how this aligns with sustainability.
Much has been written in the last few years about the surprising “wisdom of crowds.” This wisdom resides in the tapping of diverse (and sometimes dispersed) perspectives. Scott E. Page has spent considerable time focusing on the importance of diversity in solving complex problems. He has noted that people from different backgrounds have varying ways of looking at problems, or what he calls “tools.” Page’s research suggests that the sum of these tools is much more powerful among diverse stakeholders than in situations where everyone thinks alike. For example, there’s data that shows that diverse cities are more productive, diverse communities are more resilient, diverse boards of directors are better at decision-making, and that the most innovative companies are diverse. Page’s explanation is embodied in this quote:
“A perspective creates a landscape where the elevation of each solution equals its value. The better the perspective, the less rugged the landscape.
Just imagine the potential of diverse perspectives coming together to survey that landscape, taking the value of collectively generated solutions to new heights and breadth. The vastness of “ecological intelligence” actually requires this. Acting on this imagination and awarenesss, can we be more intentional about including or even assigning diverse perspectives? Jeanette Armstrong, Okanagan Canadian writer and consultant to the Center for Ecoliteracy, has shared the decision-making framework of her people as a model for acting sustainably. When people come together to discuss a matter, each person is asked to adopt one of four perspectives to speak from: land/place, family/relationships, security/sustenance, and vision/creativity. In considering any decision, all four perspectives must be fully considered and balanced with respect to ultimate impact.
The point is that if we lack the whole or larger picture, it is difficult to imagine meeting current needs without compromising those of future generations. This wholeness, and the promise of collaboration, depend in part upon our ability to include and act upon a variety of systemic perspectives. More on the how next time, and curious to hear your thoughts, reactions, experiences to this point.