First, the old recipe for getting agreement:
1: Gather cross-sector experts to talk about the problem and boil the ocean.
The problem with understanding something is that it gives us the illusion you can fix it. – Hart Blanton
2: Make sure they are speaking from their expert language silos, albeit it may sound like they are using English.
3: Expect adversarial perspectives by assuming that there may be winners and losers.
4. Make sure they feel under pressure to come up with breakthrough thinking even though they are pessimistic it will happen.
5: Get the experts to agree on the problem and still like each other in the morning.
4 new and better steps for getting expert agreement … and make progress on change.
Be the convener of better questions about the past, present and future.
Step 1: Clarify the problem and give the task some context with insightful analysis and storytelling about experiences from different perspectives. Expect and respect disagreement. Help the experts feel they are heard and engaged, and are on an equal footing.
People are trying to collaborate, just not each other’s way. – Jim Duval
Step 2: Ask about exceptions to the problem. Assume that among the dense undergrowth of intractable and unsolvable problems there are things already working. Ask ‘Where have we seen examples of solutions that already exist?’ Seek details on the stories about exceptions and weave them into hopeful signs that things can change.
Change is happening all the time…our job is to notice useful change and amplify it – Gregory Bateson
Step 3: Let the experts unleash the potential of their collective knowledge and wisdom. Describe the future without the problem present. Explore possibilities from the perspectives of each of the key stakeholders. Leverage diversity. Endorse and amplify ideas about what’s possible. Ask ‘Imagine Harry Potter’s magic wand transports us into the future and the problem no longer dominates, what would each of the stakeholders now be doing?’ Let them see that they are speaking the same language about the future.
A powerful question alters all thinking and behaving that occurs afterwards. – Marie Goldberg
Step 4: Consolidate the rich diverse view of the future into a few strategic priorities. Think about partnership and consortiums to deliver the strategies, not silos. Be very clear on small steps towards making progress on the priorities.
Water the flowers, not the weeds. – Fletcher Peacock
What other ways can we help experts agree on the future we want?
Tips on other better ways to convene and agree from my book ‘Monkey-Free Meetings’.