How to get understanding if not agreement

Matt Ridley, the rational optimist, has a wish about, ‘economists versus ecologists and the limits to growth’:

‘If I could have one wish for the Earth’s environment, it would be to bring together the two tribes—to convene a grand powwow of ecologists and economists. I would pose them this simple question and not let them leave the room until they had answered it: How can innovation improve the environment?’ *

ecologists and economistsHow would we use Solution Focus to transform the debate at Matt’s powwow of ecologists and economists?

First of all, lets’ lower expectations and instead consider where we could achieve understanding if not agreement. After all, the powwow would be full of experts anxious to prove that their theory was correct or, at least, superior to the others.

Winners & LosersTo avoid a winners and losers debate Matt’s powwow of experts might apply this thinking:


4 new and better steps for getting expert agreement … and make progress on change.

Using a Solution Focus approach, the powwow participants might also:

Prior to the powwow, the experts might agree on desired outcomes for the event, i.e., imagine what success looks like

During the session, having actively listened to each other, take small steps forward

After the powwow, take what they have in common and publish it (vs. what they found wrong in each other’s ‘arguments’)

Why understanding if not agreement?

  • The issues are complex and the views are based on a multiplicity of expert analysis of the problems.
  • Letting go of long cherished ideas, albeit fear-based, is hard.
  • Reframing the ideas by asking better questions to open up listening and finding common ground helps make progress.

* Why most resources don’t run out – Matt RidleyMake progress visual copy



Published by

Alan Kay

Alan Kay. Speeding up Change - Strategy. Customer & Stakeholder Co-creation. Solution Focus. Author & Speaker. Book: Fry the Monkeys - Create a Solution.