Conflicts - everyone has them, but nobody wants them. That is why we can deny conflicts better than solve them. The general attitude towards them is comparable to the Victorian attitude towards sex: accept, but not enjoy. Conflicts are part of life, especially of modern working life. The more contradictory, faster and more complex companies act in global competition, the more conflict competence becomes a magical ability. Training them means first and foremost facing conflicts.
brandeins - German economy magazine (translated)
I work in the frontend of "conflicts", where the insights from psychology and pedagogy gain a foothold, for example, in the form of methods of communication and decision making. I am mainly interested in methods that are about to become established but are not very well known. The keywords, I derive my knowledge from are "systemics" and "system theory" as well as "resource orientation". A characteristic that seems to be typical for me is to pay attention to fields in psychology that have so far received little attention. (btw: As I don't want to repeat myself, please take reference to my collection of scientific related articles.)
It requires some positive stubbornness and confidence in us humans in general, because we often feel "threatened" to be convinced of the opposite: that people are not to be trusted.
The systemic consensus, which I want to deal with here today,
offers surprisingly few sources, measured by the multitude of other scientific topics that can be found on the Internet. It is precisely this scarcity of finds that has aroused my interest. I think that there is potential to be developed, an opportunity to help group decisions reach consensus. Without the arduous, often very strenuous and time-consuming debates that are generally ascribed to decision-building.
What exactly is systemic consensus?
It is a formal method aiming at group decisions that is not based on the majority voting principle, but on the lowest resistance result of the group. This lowest resistance result is carried out using a scaling procedure.
By measuring the group resistance there is an objective decision criterion even if the majority decisions fail. And this criterion can be communicated very well to the participants.
Pro votes are adjusted to achieve some goals or fulfill some wishes. This leads to some unpleasant phenomena, like group egoism, exercise of power, vote catching, ruthlessness, winner and loser.
This sounds familiar, doesn't it? Where have you ever made a different experience, whenever you entered a situation that required a group to decide on something?
What is NOT consensus:
Consensus is Not Unanimity
Many people think of consensus as simply an extended voting method in which everyone must cast their votes the same way. Since unanimity of this kind rarely occurs in groups with more than one member, groups that try to use this kind of process usually end up being either extremely frustrated or coercive. Decisions are never made (leading to the demise of the group), they are made covertly, or some group or individual dominates the rest. Sometimes a majority dominates, sometimes a minority, sometimes an individual who employs “the Block.” But no matter how it is done, this coercive process is not consensus.
We are so used to thinking and acting according to the power principle that it is very difficult to accept a completely different method. The majority decision is just as much a part of our everyday life as asphalted roads. These are often driven on, widely used and a matter of course. Nevertheless, we are not happy with it, because whenever we see ourselves as a minority, we recognize how flawed the majority-voting is. Erroneous in the sense of creating discord. And even if we feel we belong to the majority, we see the angry reactions and disappointed faces of the "losers".
Unanimity is achieved when the full group apparently consents to a decision. It has disadvantages insofar as further disagreement, improvements or better ideas then remain hidden, but effectively ends the debate moving it to an implementation phase. Some consider all unanimity a form of groupthink, and some experts propose "coding systems...for detecting the illusion of unanimity symptom."
This is what I think systemic consensus achieves through scaling. It is a coding system.
Measurement of systemic consensus (SK)
The SK introduces an assessment scale for the subjective resistance of a person. This traditionally ranges from 0 to 10 resistance votes (“W votes”).
0 W-votes = no resistors
10 W-votes = the proposal is unacceptable to me
Intermediate values are assigned according to feeling
If you were involved in a group choice where you should choose between several given options, you would personally question your least inner resistance. An example. The group should decide which of the activities to consider:
- climbing the glacier wall
- white water rafting
- mountain biking
- mountain hiking
Beware of your habit!
If you read the proposals, maybe something is happening to you right now: You skim the individual suggestions and already start to decide for your preference. You are inclined to make a quick decision. What, for example, has to do with the fact that you often experienced such rapid exchanges of blows in school. Someone yells a proposal into the room: "Who is for it!?" Hands immediately go up. "Who is against it?!" and everyone wants to push through quickly.
How would you express yourself in a different and more slow way, if you were a part of the group, with what suggestion would you associate the least inner resistance? With which suggestion could you also live quite well and is there one that you can't go along with at all? You make these considerations with this method and assign a number on the scale accordingly.
Note: you go through each proposal individually and always treat it as virgin.
"Climbing in the glacier wall": Where do you put your value? How much abdominal pain or how little does this suggestion do for you on its own?
Nevertheless, we cannot always do without cooperation in advance of the scaling, which, however, offers the prospect of a much more attractive goal and therefore makes the effort and time spent way more enjoyable. Because consensus means that all participants are satisfied with the decision.
If, for example, political work or corporate communication in a company requires human resources and other energies, only so that in the end a decision is made on this matter on the basis of a majoritarian vote, then it often does not even come to that (except in the official elections). For central decisions are already made in advance in the hierarchy, because the leading board knows or suspects that majority voting will make emotions soar and fail the intention to create a good outcome.
Here is a comparison of the two methods:
Full process of consensus
In the source below I found a very good explanation and guidance through the process of laying out the basement for getting to the final consensus. It's grounded on systemic principles, for creativity and resources of the group is being integrated in the process.
The creative process
The full power of the systemic consensus principle unfolds if it is not only used to decide on given solutions as shown before but to use it from the beginning. How this can be done is described in the so called creative process.
- Step 1: Describe Problem (s)
- Step 2: Find Interests
- Step 3: Gather Information
- Step 4: Phrase Requests for a Good Solution
- Step 5: Create Solutions
- Step 6: Find Pros and Cons
- Step 7: Evaluate Levels of Resistance (Preliminary)
- Step 8: Explore Remaining Resistances
- Step 9: Adjust Solutions
- Step 10: Adjust Pros And Cons
- Step 11: Evaluate Levels of Resistance (Final)
The final step normally is performed very quickly. Evaluate the group resistance based on the 10-scale.
In some sensible cases – election of a person – better use the “term” acceptance” rather than “resistance” when publishing the result.
I work with scales in almost every client meeting where I get the chance to work in a systemic setting. It saves so much talk, confusion and discussion. From experience I can tell that I get better and quicker results in finding out what the client actually wants and where he builds up hinderances for himself. Even today I can look back onto some fruitful sessions where I used the scaling method next to encouragement, perspective changing and an overall positive attitude of mine towards the clients. Despite the fact that you probably would classify them as really difficult people.
When should one participate in systemic consensus?
Contributors decide for themselves if and how they will take part in a systemic consensus: We don't restrict access to decisions, but value the self-determination of contributors by trusting them to self-select their level of participation in the systemic consensus cycle. In order to figure out how you should participate in a systemic consensus, ask yourself the following;
Do I feel that the outcome will affect me?
Do I feel that I will be accountable for the outcome of the decision?
Do I feel that I will be part of doing the outcome of the decision?
If you answer 'yes!' to...
... none, feel free to witness the process silently or to spend your time somewhere else.
... one, give your needs, wants and values and also your proposals in the consensus cycle.
... two or all, participate in the whole consensus cycle with voting.
The advantage of this kind of self-questioning is that you overcome your insecurity. Many things in life already provoke our resistance through our differing opinions and we give them up to things that are the result of a perceived provocation. Personally, I would like to see an environment (in social media) where I am less inclined to be seduced by judgment, or to find the framework for it, that reveals my best instead of my worst qualities.
The group TransitionHaus Bayreuth decided soon after its foundation to make its decisions with the help of the Systemic Consensus. After a first test it soon became clear that this mechanism is very promising. Everyday practice has shown, however, that the SK principle sometimes feels counterintuitive and somewhat bulky in its application. The group felt that Systemic Consensus places high demands on the moderator and is a very technical way of conducting discussions. It is also difficult to convey the systemic consensus to newcomers.
I can confirm that. In my consulting practice I sometimes find that my kind of questioning and aim for precision and clear answers is perceived as "technical" and "counterintuitive", because people usually prefer to discuss their feelings in length (or, not to discuss them at all). However, I find it enough that every client tells me numerous sentiments simply by their choice of words, gestures and facial expressions, by the speed of their narrative and the obvious desire to be understood. While I have since understood the client through this form of observation, taking his or her sensitivities seriously, the client still can feel misunderstood because he or she has forgotten or never learned to consciously perceive the positive signals of his or her counterpart. Then I work with reassurance to transport my understanding.
... the group organised a Systemic Consensus Seminar, inviting experienced SK trainers ... to train decision-making in a group with them. This seminar was financed by the nationwide support program Democracy Life. The group realized very early on that decision-making in a group of equals is an unfamiliar task and that one should not be afraid to seek outside support.
The common good economy, for example, has been using systemic consensus for years. In Styria (Austria), municipal mergers were ordered by the provincial government in the last legislative period - with a lot of controversy. One of these municipal mergers was carried out by systemic consensus: In just two working days, a draft was produced which was signed by four mayors involved and has now been implemented.
Executives of a company are required to trust their employees to go through the consensus-building process and not to be the ones who have to process considerations all on their own. For people who do not want to give up power and control, this is often not possible or a very difficult exercise. But it is a great opportunity to have an unexpected experience.
Global scale & leadership
The degree of complexity of work in modern societies and the globality of the economy and politics, however, point in a different direction and want to set a new trend. As societies that gain much broader access to knowledge through the Internet, the classic form of hierarchy and decision making is clearly seen as overburdening the leadership levels of politics and economics. Executives are looking for methods that offer something new, apart from the "divide and conquer principle".
Anyone who sees on this eye knows that the relations of countries on a global level need consensus orientation, because the threats are indeed no small thing and we all know how, for example, the nuclear age has shown us that the competition for power plunges everyone into ruin and not "just" a few landmarks are taken by warfare.
Kenneth Arrow received a Nobel prize for proving it is impossible to come up with a decision in a logical, fair, and equitable way by combining the (existing) preferences of a group of people except under very simple circumstances.
In social choice theory, Arrow's impossibility theorem, the general possibility theorem or Arrow's paradox is an impossibility theorem stating that when voters have three or more distinct alternatives (options), no ranked voting electoral system can convert the ranked preferences of individuals into a community-wide (complete and transitive) ranking while also meeting a specified set of criteria: unrestricted domain, non-dictatorship, Pareto efficiency, and independence of irrelevant alternatives. The theorem is often cited in discussions of voting theory as it is further interpreted by the Gibbard–Satterthwaite theorem.
With regard to social media,
I have the impression that we want to be part of a big confirmation and consolation machine, but often we get the opposite of what we hope for. How exactly does the transfer of social media into our private lives happen, where we seek the real experience? The group building that happened and happens here on Steemit is an expression of community will and a supportive mentality. If I had to say precisely what I learned in the course of my presence on this platform, I wouldn't really be able to say exactly what that is. But I'm pretty sure the feedback I've received has given me a lot of valuable insights.
Using the potential (intelligence) of all
I imagine how the groups here could use the method of systemic consensus for themselves to make the decision-making of the many visible in a way that provides guidance and clarity into the - often unconscious and not openly expressed - resistances. Such a method would be helpful for the head office or the management of a group in order to achieve as authentic an expression of the group will as possible. Systemic consensus is one way of relieving the burden on both the leadership level and the many who see themselves as part of the group. I am sure that the systemic consensus has an elevation at the level of meaning of a group and perceives itself as effective and capable of making decisions.
One fact that I feel is certain is that people behave differently in a group than in a constellation of two. The group dynamics often lead to statements of the individual participants, which interestingly show the opposite of the least internal resistance. Someone who only follows or agrees with the powerful participants of a round because this position of power gives them an advantage in their backwaters. But what is actually thought and felt often falls by the wayside. This is known as opportunism.
Then again there is the feeling of belonging to minorities who no less forcefully want to coerce a decision. If group decisions take place by means of systemic consensus, it is unnecessary to ask afterwards which proposal was favoured, because the group does not need this reinsurance of the certain vote affiliation.
By their very nature, majority decisions promote opportunism, oppositionism and dishonesty. By reversing preference into least resistance, systemic consensus by nature is a method that enables cooperation and authentic consideration of proposals. Insofar as the casting of votes does not take place publicly, but secretly/anonymously, the participants do not come into a compulsive situation to justify themselves and can therefore be more courageous.
Spread the information
The reason why I have asked your support on this topic quite often is not only within the Steemosphere, but gets meaning by trying this procedure and making known where you are, for example, in a professional group situation or a family group situation. Despite the seriousness of the topic, have fun and experiment with the method.
You can also cast your vote for this experiment here at any time and I will evaluate it at some point if there are enough participants. Please, don't see the proposals as set but more of giving a topic which busies the minds on this platform. It's for getting first hand experience and playing with the method in a lively way. Though I would gladly open up a new systemic consensus experiment when you people come up with ideas.
Thank you so much for reading.
Title: By The original uploader was Paul Carpenter at English Wikipedia. - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by MHM-com., CC BY 1.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3416372