Making it easy to build consensus and move forward together

How can I make it easier for people and organizations to build consensus and move forward together?  That’s the question I try keep in front of me, as I go about the day-to-day of my business.  And, here’s a simple mental model I created to help guide me in how I answer that question:


This model (which I think applies to just about any context!) tells me that providing a collaborative framework that allows people to engage in authentic conversations and build consensus, will grease the wheels of collaborative action.

This model builds on Maslow’s (almost iconic) hierarchy of needs idea that people need a safe, supportive environment, before they will take on the risks that come along with fully engaging others in creative problem solving and action.  I also draw on ideas put forth by Peter Senge and Otto Scharmer (and others) in Presence, their book about change and transformation and a recent blog post by visual thinker David Armano.  To represent collaborative action, I have united the two semi-circles into a circle, the archetype of connection and relatedness.  The circle also conveys unity of (collaboration) purpose, and the yin/yang of safety and risk.

A framework for collaboration

A collaborative framework gives one a sense of safety and belonging, a home base from which to venture out from, a feeling of its safe to fail!  It also offers:

  • Physical places to meet, relate with others, and conduct work (see my post on workspace physical design)
  • Structures and tools that guide and enable; e.g., process design, ICT, toolboxes
  • Decision-making support; whether executive, logistical, and/or emotional
  • Third-party coordination; helping facilitate dialogue and problem solving

Building consensus and collaborative action

Building consensus involves suspending our own thoughts, putting ourselves in others shoes, focusing on the issue(s), envisioning a better way, and finding common ground and shared agreement on a course of action.  Building consensus involves relationships, process, and content no mean challenge!

From consensus, we are better positioned to undertake collaborative projects, communities of practice, and knowledge management; and learn to live with future uncertainties.

What’s your mantra for making it easy to build consensus and move forward together?

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  1. Hi, Ben. Just downloaded your e-book on Collaboration Maxims. I love it – it includes this framework, but what I really like is your ability to succinctly put down very core and important ideas. As a facilitator I use some of them regularly (i.e. sit in a circle, balance inquiry with advocacy), but they will become my “rules of engagement” for the start of every session. Thank you for taking the time to boil down what I am sure took years and years of hard work and dedication to learn. I am passing this book on to lots of people. Take care. Have a great day. Jill

  2. Thanks Jill. Glad you liked the book. One of the challenges of putting it together was trying to keep the # words down, and as you say boil it down… And then, I feel fortunate to be able to share it with, and have it read by, folks like you, who are doing your own interesting things (looking at your website). It’s this sharing/exchanging of views and ideas that benefits everyone; e.g., I like your idea of these kinds of things (e.g., maxims) becoming “rules of engagement”. Take care. Ben.

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