When stakeholders come together to collaborate, dialogue, and tackle complex, wicked, messy problems, you never know where the best ideas will come from. They could come from people at the top of an organization with their system level view. Or from people who work with the details most closely. Or from the people impacted most by the problem. Or others.
There are some human and societal barriers to expressing ideas in a group setting. Some people just don’t like to speak in groups. Society conditions us to think that those with positional power know more and have the best wisdom to share (this isn’t true and I’ll share more about that in a future blog). How do you get past these barriers to get everyone’s ideas on the table for consideration? In the development of Structured Democratic Dialogue (SDD) many group processes that purport to allow idea generation and clarification were rigorously evaluated and only the best were selected. In this case, ours is a slightly modified version of Nominal Group Technique.
How well does it work? Let’s take an example. We recently conducted a Co-lab (a meeting employing the SDD methodology to tackle a specific problem) with 42 participants in support of strategic planning for a school district. The 42 people represented over 70 stakeholder groups and included a board member, the district superintendent, district administrators, teachers, parents, students, and more. Here’s a quick video of what SDD did for one of the student participants and for every other participant as well.
If you were the high school student in the room, without SDD, would you speak up? Would you feel like your ideas were well considered by the group? Without hearing and considering ideas from all perspectives, how else can you ensure you are really addressing the key aspects of the problem? Remember, like the Demosophia name, the wisdom is in the people.