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Mastering systems thinking in practice
Mastering systems thinking in practice

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8 Negotiating between different perspectives

If several people work together to produce a single product (such as a diagram) they have to find some way of agreeing. Ways of gaining agreement are essentially of two sorts:

  1. Those that aim to achieve functional, but superficial, conformity;
  2. Those that aim for a deeper consensus.

Conformity is achieved by such techniques as delegating authority to a chair, taking votes on issues or horse-trading. None of these are helpful for getting a shared view of a situation. True consensus is found where members of the group find ways of reformulating their views on a situation so that areas of apparently irresolvable conflict or difference in views can be by-passed, transformed, or replaced by better understanding, or even using conflict constructively as a source of creative thinking. So, ensuring everyone has a ’voice’ or opportunity to contribute through formal and informal negotiation is important.

Diagrams can help in this area because it can be easier for all to participate in some way in drawing the diagram, either by making suggestions for what to include or physically adding things, in a way that leaves a combined record that one person taking notes or minutes in a formal way rarely achieves. However this does mean that everyone needs their own pen or whoever has been chosen to hold the pen simply writes down the thoughts of the others. Alternatively, the group might decide that they will each draft their own diagram first and then compare or constructively criticise them before constructing a joint one based on all the individual contributions.