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



When collaboration ‘kills innovation’ try co-creation

Finally, collaboration is in vogue! So why is someone saying that it kills innovation?

I’m sick of collaboration. It makes things mushy and kills innovation

So spoke a participant impatient for change at a recent planning session.

It could be that, in this person’s field, some of the collaborators are actually more interested in the politics, or the lowest common denominator, or worse … compromise!

…this means bringing diverse groups together to deal with ambiguity and complexity. Leaders must be adept at the use of influence as they will most likely be operating without power and authority over many of the participants.  Crossen and Olivera

Yes, innovators … you do have to be patient with the status quo. But, stop for a minute! How do you maintain your standard for moving forward, being ahead of the pack and collaborate through co-creation?

Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.   Oliver Wendell Holmes

How do you get others to buy into your ideas without having to circumvent others and make progress faster then they appreciate? Avoid assuming that people are not ready for your idea, but instead they are:

  • Moving at a slower pace than you
  • In a different place, but are interested in similar outcomes as you are
  • Wanting to cooperate with you, just not your way
  • Not resisting your idea, but your impatience

Remember, that your innovative idea will come alive through test and learn practices. Why not co-create with those who might not actually be your detractors?

Solution focused co-creation ideas for the naturally impatient innovator:

Sell the benefit to them, not the idea itself. Ask yourself:

‘Suppose people were to buy in to my idea and engaged in its use, how would it be working for them? What would they be saying that they appreciate about it?’

Help them understand the idea by first asking:

‘Suppose it worked for you, what parts of it would please you most?’

When they raised objections to your idea ask:

‘Imagine that were no longer a problem, what would we be doing that works?’

‘What one thing do you see that might be done better and how would that be useful?’

Innovators, make your solution part of everyone’s solution by co-creating the Solution Focus way.