Print

Print


I love Daniel Horsey's post and Barbara's reply to Landon.   There are some really important insights here.  I'm copying Daniel's post here for convenience.

Perhaps group processes which aim to serve the larger community invite a couple of attractive fantasies into the room:

1. The fantasy that if we move toward an idea together, it must be a good idea.
2. The fantasy that if we like our resulting feelings, we have created something worthwhile.
3. The fantasy that if we believe something it must be true.
4. The fantasy that beliefs are more valid than knowledge (however that's defined).

Fantasies are fun. I'd certainly rather play than work

I think Daniel's observation is brilliant.  There is a kind of circular reinforcement built into this pattern of fantasy that shows up in many places in our society.  I feel like reading this list daily as a kind of compass to "reality."

The key line in Barbara's post that I love is her acknowledgement of the need to

. . . give really new  ideas enough time to incubate, mature and get recognized by the group as of value.

People get scared of outlying ideas because they challenge dominant paradigms, feel threatening to something they gather security from.  An antidote to this is our process understanding that all ideas are valid, even contradictory ideas and paradoxes.  Ideas don't compete, they just exist as reflections of different people's experience.  If as process facilitators we can hold a space for that view, then making space for every view can be seen by the group to enrichen the field.  Holding a space that gives everything in the field time to incubate is hugely generative.  Once it happens, it is transformational for people, as much as they may have fought it at the outset.

We often say to groups,"You are likely used to feeling obligated when you come to a meeting to win people over to your viewpoint.  In this meeting we relieve you of that responsibility.  Here you are free to listen, experience the people in the room and the feelings and ideas they bring, and then, as a group, imagine something that grows from that whole."  How does one do that with a polling box or theme team?

The push in the AS process to pin things down quickly and quantitatively works against the dynamic of incubation of thought.  I'd like to see a quantification of the amount of time spent in inquiry or incubation in an AS event.  I think it is more than a perception of mine that the time I have spent at AS events gives little time to reflect with any sense of spaciousness.

These dynamics we are talking about here are not trivial.  If we are not paying attention to them and implementing them in the work we are doing, our work will suffer.  What are we committed to?  Are we committed to truly reaching for possibility, or are we simply doing something that gets us praise and gets by?

. . . time to incubate, mature and get recognized by the group as of value

Another phrase to cherish.

--Kenoli

On Jun 30, 2010, at 8:45 AM, Barbara Simonetti wrote:

Hi Landon,

A friendly clarification:

In your note you said:

“As noted by Bruce and Barbara, "out of the box" solutions are almost guaranteed to be squelched, which practically ensures that "genius" level ideas will never be shared beyond the local level.”

 

Actually, as opposed to “out of the box” solutions being guaranteed to be squelched, it has been my experience that groups can be truly generative of  breakthrough thinking. They also have the huge advantage of  faster and more organic adoption of new ideas  because there is greater likelihood of understanding the idea in context and trusting the source of its generation.  My concern is that the pace of this particular process, especially the theme identification, might not give really new  ideas enough time to incubate, mature and get recognized by the group as of value. There is always a depth and breath trade-off in these processes and a need to calibrate them to balance the two. The issue is how to adapt the theme process to identify and capture the outliers that have clear value but no frequency without introducing bias or violating the trust of the group.

Best,

 Barbara


 


From: Landon Shultz [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 10:59 AM
To: Barbara Simonetti; [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [NCDD-DISCUSSION] America Speaks national sessions on America's budget and deficit

 

Friends,

 

I share a concern that "mass dialogue" technologies, while well-intentioned, are designed in ways that perpetuate normative thinking.  As noted by Bruce and Barbara, "out of the box" solutions are almost guaranteed to be squelched, which practically ensures that "genius" level ideas will never be shared beyond the local level. 

 

What if online dialogue technologies had been at work when Alfred Wegener was propounding his idea about Continental Drift?  Talk about a crazy idea.  Africa and South America were supposed to fit together once upon a time?  Entire continents drifting around?  How could anyone think such a thing?  In the early 20th Century, the idea of Continental Drift would never have made it to the top of any kind of networking conversation.

 

If we are going to pat ourselves on the back for developing creative conversational technologies, let's have in mind to do more than to simply propagate our past tendencies to close our ears to ideas that are new and genuinely creative. 

 

Not that humble self has any particularly clear idea of how to accomplish this, mind you, just that we can be mindful of striving to do better tomorrow than we have done in the past.

 

Landon in Austin.

Live Music Capital of the Universe ;-)

 

Landon T. Shultz, PhD
Bluebonnet Hills Christian Church
Austin, Texas, USA
(512) 263-5368 home/office
(512) 689-8264 cell

----- Original Message -----

From: [log in to unmask]">Barbara Simonetti

Sent: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 8:28 AM

Subject: Re: [NCDD-DISCUSSION] America Speaks national sessions on America's budget and deficit

 

Hi Sandy and all,

 Thanks to everyone who has been posting on this conversation. It is very interesting. While I am both impressed and supportive of the process as described,  I share  Bruce’s concern that “out of the box”  ideas can get left on the cutting room floor. This is especially likely  if they are truly innovative and there is not enough time  for the large  group to see their value. Jerry Sternin’s amazing work on positive deviance comes to mind and I am wondering how the learning from that work might be integrated into a process like this?

Best,

 Barbara

Meetings That Matter

Boston, MA

 


From: NCDD Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Bruce Waltuck
Sent: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 9:23 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [NCDD-DISCUSSION] America Speaks national sessions on America's budget and deficit

 

Hi Sandy and all,
 
I had a fairly unique role and perspective on the America Speaks, Our Budget Our Economy event.  Just last week i was asked to move from being a table facilitator (which I have done with AS before), and become a member of the "Theme Team."  For those less familiar with the AS methodology, they use technology to gather and distribute the ideas generated at every single table in the dialogue session.  A laptop is at every table, and a volunteer transcribes every idea from every participant, into the system.  Those "raw" unfiltered ideas are then scanned by Theme Team members.  In this case, there were about two dozen "Themers" all of us at the main site in Philadelphia.  We were randomly assigned to work in pairs.  Each pair was looking at data from one, or a few of the 19 linked city sites.  So, my partner and I were seeing every idea coming in from a particular city, as they came in in real time.
 
Our work as themers, was to look for patterns, or themes in the ideas being suggested by the various people at our assigned city.  If we saw that among 100 ideas on a given topic, there were five or ten very similar suggestions, we articulated that as a "theme."  The themes were manually posted to a large board, where two Theme Team coordinators made a very basic analysis and clustered the themes for seeming affinity.  Before the end of the time for a topic, representatives of the theme team pairs made a final scan of all of the posted themes.  A quick consensus would be achieved, and the collected themes would then be immediately typed into PowerPoint slides.  These were then immediately shown back to all of the people in all of the sites for their review and final consideration.  The people from the sites ultimately voted on the priority options.
 
Now having said this, it was interesting to me to note both the critiques from some groups, and my own opnions on the design of this process. 
 
A few comments, in no special order:
 
..with regard to those options included and excluded from the original list: the contents of the budget broefing book and the participant workbook (issues and given options) were vetted by a large Advisory Board.  This group has representatives across the political spectrum.  given that filtering process, it is no surprise that options might tend more to the "center" of the spectrum.  But most important, all participants nationwide had the opportunity to contribute options that were not on the given list.  No one group, no matter how smart, will offer everything.  So in this case, options from what i think we may call the right and left, did definitely appear (flat tax; single-payer health care system).
 
..with regard to allegations that groups attempted to somehow dominate the process and polling:  given the geographic diversity of the 19 main sites; the distribution of attendees at tables; and the trained facilitators at every table, I believe it was not possible to control the agenda or outcomes beyond a VERY narrow scope (maybe at one table, e.g.).  As we see in feedback from the facilitators, discussions were overwhelmingly civil, and people followed the process, no matter where a table fell in its ideologies.  From my view in the Theme Team area, I saw data from some cities, and heard adjacent themers discussing what they were getting.  I did observe that one city had ideas and themes rather different than the others, but this appeared to reflect that city's known patterns- not in any way skewed by the efforts of a group.
 
..It is true that the dialogue focused on options going forward and not on root causes.  We may debate this, but it is clearly a practical approach to strategize future deficit levels.
 
..It is hard for me to know the validity of the Theming process.  How do we know that the themers are aligned, or "calibrated" in the way we identify theme patterns?  We did undergo training in the system, and did a sample theming exercise.  But it would be interesting if research was done on this process to validate it (and in fact I believe this has been the case... I am just not sure or able to cite a source for you here).
 
..What struck me in the theming, is that a)I saw few of what I personally would call "out of the box" creative options; and (more important, I think), b)offering mainly themes that have come from a significant number of participants, may overlook a lone or minority idea which may in fact hold great promise and potential.  I was reminded of the famous quote that "A problem can not be solved from the same consciousness that created it." (Einstein?).  what we may see as an unimportant "outlier" may be a key to real opportunity.  It is almost impossible to know in advance, and certainly not in the moment of theming.
 
So overall, I found the work and the day to be very impressive.  People made sure to get their views heard, and the consensus clearly emerged.  No one group dominated this, and ideas that came from the voices of the people - as opposed to the advisory group workbook - made it to the final listing.
 
But none of this will matter if our policy and decision-makers do not take heed, and use these ideas to drive measured action.  Accountability for change must go hand-in-hand with empowerment to change.
 
THANKS and have a great day!
 
Bruce
 
Bruce Waltuck, M.A., Complexity, Chaos, and Creativity
Freethinc... for a Change
Chair-elect, Government Division, ASQ
Member, Plexus Institute ---

NCDD's discussion and announcement lists are generously provided by L-Soft ( www.lsoft.com ) and are powered by L-Soft's LISTSERV mailing list management software ( www.lsoft.com/LISTSERV-powered.html ). Learn more about NCDD's email lists in the community section of the NCDD website ( www.thataway.org/community/lists/ ). Please read this mailing list's rules ( www.thataway.org/community/listrules ) before you post.

---

NCDD's discussion and announcement lists are generously provided by L-Soft ( www.lsoft.com ) and are powered by L-Soft's LISTSERV mailing list management software ( www.lsoft.com/LISTSERV-powered.html ). Learn more about NCDD's email lists in the community section of the NCDD website ( www.thataway.org/community/lists/ ). Please read this mailing list's rules ( www.thataway.org/community/listrules ) before you post.

---

NCDD's discussion and announcement lists are generously provided by L-Soft ( www.lsoft.com ) and are powered by L-Soft's LISTSERV mailing list management software ( www.lsoft.com/LISTSERV-powered.html ). Learn more about NCDD's email lists in the community section of the NCDD website ( www.thataway.org/community/lists/ ). Please read this mailing list's rules ( www.thataway.org/community/listrules ) before you post.


Kenoli Oleari
Institute of the Commons
510-717-1706

---

NCDD's discussion and announcement lists are generously provided by L-Soft ( www.lsoft.com ) and are powered by L-Soft's LISTSERV mailing list management software ( www.lsoft.com/LISTSERV-powered.html ). Learn more about NCDD's email lists in the community section of the NCDD website ( www.thataway.org/community/lists/ ). Please read this mailing list's rules ( www.thataway.org/community/listrules ) before you post.