Getting Over Our SelvesMarch 25, 2010 Leave a comment
“How do we help people move toward authentic inquiry when their default is aggressive inquisition?” This question was offered up in a tweet by Larry Dressler a week ago and presaged my planned post today. My departure was going to be a return to the work of Marcial Losada mentioned in a previous post, which shows that optimal group performance is attributed in part to members striking a balance between asking questions and promoting their own points of view. Low performing groups tend to get caught up in self-absorbed advocacy. “Aggressive inquisition” can simply be a form of advocacy, intended to attack and tear down other ideas. This is not the spirit Losada is talking about. And yet, it can be challenging for some to avoid simply campaigning for their own proposals.
So what are some steps or strategies to encourage people to make it less about them and more about the best ideas on the table? A few thoughts:
- Practice dialogue. Dialogue is a poorly understood form of interaction in this country. What is sometimes dubbed dialogue is actually debate or discussion. The difference? The good people at the Public Conversations Project point out that while debate often takes place in a threatening environment where differences on the sides of an issue are minimized or denied and where the ultimate point is to poke holes in other positions, dialogue is about creating safety for people to speak to one another, to express uncertainty about their own positions and show curiosity about others, with the desire being to surface new information and understanding. David Bohm articulated the difference between discussion and dialogue as first and foremost being the difference between driving towards a decision and learning. Dialogue asks participants to practice suspending opinions and judgments.
- Assign Systemic Perspectives. Jeanette Armstrong is an Okanagan Canadian writer who has shared the decision-making framework of her people as a model for having more informed less politicized conversations. When people come together to discuss a matter, each person is assigned 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 holistically with respect to ultimate impact.
- Wear Different Thinking Hats. Edward deBono’s method of lateral thinking asks that groups collectively cycle through different modes of thinking to effectively evaluate ideas. These include considerations of: possible pitfalls, benefits, needed information, emotional reactions, and new ideas. The point is to try on a bunch of perspectives together, and to all have the same conversation at the same time.
What about you? What have you done to keep people’s eyes on the collective prize?