What is our proof?

More science than art

The science behind Structured Democratic Dialogues

There are two realms for the work of Structured Democratic Dialogues (SDD):

The supporting science (known as the corpus), and
the actual practice (conducted in the arena).

These two continually learn from each other and evolve.

The beginnings of the science

Although the theories and logic used date back to Aristotle, the modern application began in the 1960′s with a few scientists from very different backgrounds and interests who came together over time to understand the nature of complex and wicked problems and how people could work together to resolve them:

Over time, many more joined the work.
To get an overview of the science behind SDD, you can review:

Overview of some important work:

The Predicament of Mankind. Report to the Club of Rome

In 1970, this proposal which describes how interconnected the world’s most critical problems are was written as a first step on the quest for structured responses to growing world-wide complexities and uncertainties. Its applicability resounds as strongly today as when it was written by Dr. Ozbekhan.

Wicked problems were named

In 1973, this paper by Rittel & Webber coined the term “Wicked Problems” and provided a number of characteristics that separate them from “Tame” ones. A few of them are (so you get the main idea):
  • There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem
  • Every wicked problem is essentially unique
  • Wicked problems have no stopping rule – people stop because of a lack of money, time, or patience, not because the problem is solved
  • There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to a wicked problem – any solution will generate waves of consequences of an extended period of time the consequences of which cannot be appraised
  • Every solution to a wicked problem is a “one shot operation” – every attempt counts significantly
  • The planners have no right to be wrong – the effects can matter a great deal to those people that are touched by those actions.

Efficiency is now possible

Dr. John Warfield was searching for a way to allow human beings, with our cognitive limitations (particularly in working memory capacity), to understand complexity and the relationships between ideas. Through his work, in 1973-4, he created the mathematics and algorithms to efficiently allow ideas to be compared to other ideas and then have their influence on one another visually mapped. This methodology was named Interpretive Structural Modelling (ISM). Over the next 20 years, the use of ISM to help people from different perspectives and experiences understand complex problems was pursued. He documented this learning in “A Handbook of Interactive Management” published in 1994.

Co-laboratory process refined

Dr. Christakis is the thread that runs throughout all this research and discovery. He worked with Dr. Ozbekhan at the Club of Rome, partnered with Dr. Warfield, and has worked in the arena on hundreds of wicked problems. Through his meticulous work in the arena, he continually advances the science. Through two books and numerous papers, he has laid out both the science behind SDD, and the details of preparing for and conducting a Co-laboratory – the name of the facilitated gathering of stakeholders:

Differences between influence and importance

Have you ever voted for your most important items in a meeting as a way to sort through a lot of ideas and find the ones to work on? Interestingly, its now proven that the winners of importance voting have no correlation to the ideas that actually have the most influence on the system. If you want to work on something, don’t you want to work on the ideas that are the key leverage points? Look at the the law of uncorrelated extremes and the erroneous priorities effects for more details.