Singing from the same songsheet

[Dept of unapologetic recycling of blog posts]

Some time ago I posted about a paper on wicked problems. The paper seems to have vanished from its online space but I kept these images from it.

They show first the idealised, project manager’s view of how problems get solved:

And then the researchers looked at a how a successful, real-world design team actually thought about a problem. They plotted the first designer’s thought process against the same graph:

And then they added the second designer’s thought process:

As I concluded at the time

Many meetings fail because we try to follow the linear agenda and stop people from “wandering off the point”. The trouble is, most of us need to wander off the point to follow our natural manner of figuring stuff out. And the bigger the meeting, the greater the likelihood of people being frustrated by what one person is focussing on. (This is part of why so many conferences suck.)

What’s needed is a willingness to allow more of the apparent chaos. One simple example is Open Space facilitation, which creates enormous freedom for people to wander around and join or create conversations about the part of an issue they most want to focus on, moment-by-moment.

Of course, for some people the “chaos” of open space is too much to bear. But then consider the alternative, perfectly captured in this effort by some outpost of Ernst and Young. If anyone advocates getting “everyone singing from the same songsheet” feel free to make them sit through this. (I know I blogged this before, too, but it remains cringe-makingly hilarious.)

Have a happy day, if you’re so inclined…

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