Question 13: Building Consensus

 
Old Nov 5, 08, 9:21 am
  #1  
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Question 13: Building Consensus

submitted by Jenbel
As has been well demonstrated, TB is not just about what ideas you bring to it, but your ability to work with others to persuade them to your viewpoint, or be flexible enough to amend your views to enable consensus to be built around your proposals. How do you go about building consensus within a group, and are you able to compromise when you feel that you are right, but cannot persuade others to your viewpoint?
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Old Nov 5, 08, 9:44 am
  #2  
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I'm very capable of making a good argument for issues I believe in and I also possess the skill to see both/mutiple sides of an issue. There is usually some common ground on most issues, but I also won't cave in on things I believe in without a very good reason for doing so. Pushing out a piece of legislation unanimously, while it makes TalkBoard look good, is not a very good reason folding.

Recently, we got the guidelines out after many attempts at consensus. I'm not pleased with a couple of aspects of the documnent, but overall, I am very pleased with the consensus we finally managed to achieve.
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Old Nov 5, 08, 9:56 am
  #3  
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I think consensus building requires two things:

(1) The ability to speak clearly and eloquently on your thoughts.

(2) Listening (no, REALLY listening) to others.

The more complicated and involved the issue, the harder it is to reach consensus.

The recent TB Guidelines experience showed both the good and bad side of building consensus. I thought the original document was over-reaching and it was clear that it wasn't going to pass in the original form. Putting the motion out before consensus was reached caused a divisive exchange for the entire voting period between TB members and between general members of FlyerTalk.

The revised document showed movement in both sides and showed a good compromise. It is my opinion, however, that this could've been accomplished earlier and without as much rancor, had the original motion not been put forward and seconded so quickly without buy-in of at least a 2/3 majority of TB. I'm not saying that no motion should ever be put forward that will not pass (see Question 14), but in this case, with such a long process in building this document, it's something that should've been able to pass almost immediately after a short discussion period in the public forum.
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Old Nov 5, 08, 9:59 am
  #4  
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Originally Posted by Randy Petersen View Post
submitted by Jenbel
As has been well demonstrated, TB is not just about what ideas you bring to it, but your ability to work with others to persuade them to your viewpoint, or be flexible enough to amend your views to enable consensus to be built around your proposals. How do you go about building consensus within a group, and are you able to compromise when you feel that you are right, but cannot persuade others to your viewpoint?
This sounds almost exactly like a question I was asked in my job interview last month which brought me to Vegas - I got the job, so I'm hoping I can answer it here as well!

As its a two part question, let me answer the first part first: I build consensus by present sound, rational, logical thought-out persuasive arguments and letting the idea's speak for themselves. I am not an egoist & I believe in working towards the common good. When I am wrong about something, I will admit that - however if I truly believe in something, I will fight for it.

That said, I don't like to stand in the way of progress and willing to comprise as long as its a win-win. So, to answer the second question, I am able to compromise.
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Old Nov 5, 08, 10:00 am
  #5  
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The worst thing you could do is a "my way or the highway" approach.

Simply stated, making sure the other person (or persons) understands my point of view and where I'm coming from. Ramming your viewpoint(s) down other TalkBoard members throats has far greater consequences than just the topic at hand you're discussing.

TalkBoard members should be able to think and act with a much larger vision than just the issue in front of his or her face.
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Old Nov 5, 08, 10:30 am
  #6  
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Like most things in life, TB issues usually require compromises from both sides. I'm certainly willing to propose the compromise that most people could live with. However, there is a limit on how far I'm willing to support these compromises since it can often go beyond my comfort zone on an issue.
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Old Nov 5, 08, 11:14 am
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TB is like any other job. You have to work with the folk that surround you. You may not always agree with them but you should put forward a good case and present it with the facts and if need be the figures.

There is no room for folk who are very LOUD and like to push their ideas through even if others dont support it.

If others dont want to change to my viewpoint then I would have to go with the majority as I cant always be right (my wife says that a lot...)
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Old Nov 5, 08, 12:02 pm
  #8  
nsx
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Originally Posted by Randy Petersen View Post
submitted by Jenbel
As has been well demonstrated, TB is not just about what ideas you bring to it, but your ability to work with others to persuade them to your viewpoint, or be flexible enough to amend your views to enable consensus to be built around your proposals. How do you go about building consensus within a group, and are you able to compromise when you feel that you are right, but cannot persuade others to your viewpoint?
I build consensus by identifying the extreme viewpoints, probing the members who hold those viewpoints to make sure I understand their underlying concerns, coming up with some ideas and discussing them, and finally identifying an approach that has the potential to meet everyone's most important concerns.

This year, the most contentious issue was the suspension provision in the TalkBoard Guidelines. I had some experience related to this issue: During the last election debate I had extensive discussions with Punki. I took some of that discussion to PM and email, achieving a reasonable understanding of her point of view. I didn't agree with her, but I accepted the reality of her feelings on the issue. So when the new guidelines came up for discussion, I knew that she was the one who would make or break any consensus.

I engaged her on the TalkBoard Topics forum, where the miracle occurred between posts 184 through 189: we found the approach that would appear in the final Guidelines approved 9-0 this week.


I am more than willing to change my mind when presented with solid reasoning. I've often reversed moderation decisions, and I've changed my view on the value of OMNI as well. Furthermore I will accede to others' viewpoints when the issue is minor in the interest of building a positive relationship. (Being married is good practice for this!)

Finally, since I'm thinking about it, if there's one message I could leave to people who are upset at what they see as unfair moderation, that message would be this:
Just let it slide. Accept that moderators are human and they won't always see things the way you do. Furthermore the way you see things is not necessarily the objective truth. Same for the moderator's view. The system is imperfect, so don't drive yourself nuts insisting that it be perfect. FT is a great place and enjoying it is much more important than any pursuit of perfection.
Thanks for reading.

Edited to add: I also addressed this question in my Question 1 response.

Last edited by nsx; Nov 6, 08 at 9:13 pm Reason: added a missing "don't"
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Old Nov 5, 08, 12:48 pm
  #9  
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Perhaps it's because I'm a lawyer, but I regard everything as a negotiation. Successful negotiation requires assessing the needs of the person on the other side of the table and trying to construct a solution that can meet those needs while satisfying your own. I use this approach both professionally and personally, and I find it works very well.

Approaching negotiation in this fashion requires, first and foremost, listening to the other side and understanding the other side's position. I've demonstrated, many times, that I can do this and, indeed, have changed (or, at least, moderated) my views in response to input from FTers who hold positions different from my own. It's one of the reasons that, despite being an "OMNIlib," I count as FT friends many "OMNIcons."

Accordingly, I'd encourage all FTers, not necessarily to keep an open mind, to make an effort to understand that rationales that underlie positions contrary to their own. As a TalkBoard member, I'd work to find solutions that accommodate all sides of an issue. Though it's become a cliche, I believe there is almost always a "win-win" solution to any problem.
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Old Nov 6, 08, 2:24 am
  #10  
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compromise
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Old Nov 6, 08, 2:32 am
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While consensus is important, it is equally important that every viewpoint is considered, especially those belonging to a non-vocal minority. There is nothing wrong with feeling strongly enough about a subject that you have to represent an opposing point of view.

One of the core tenets of my platform in this run for TalkBoard is to represent the interests of ALL stakeholders, notably the silent majority who don't have the time or inclination or ability to actively participate in TalkBoard discussions themselves.

For example, in this election, we risk electing a majority of moderators onto TalkBoard. The views of moderators and non-moderators are very often in conflict on numerous issues. Should the minority view just roll over and accept things in the name of consensus? I do not think so.
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Old Nov 6, 08, 5:32 am
  #12  
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Consensus is the only way to get things done on TB because of it's arcane 2/3rd majority rule. My work as a Justice of the Peace in the UK, means that I am used to working in a team to make decisions by consensus, many of which are far more serious (at least for the accused) than anything decided by TB.
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Old Nov 6, 08, 10:02 am
  #13  
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Originally Posted by B747-437B View Post
The views of moderators and non-moderators are very often in conflict on numerous issues. Should the minority view just roll over and accept things in the name of consensus? I do not think so.
Members whose viewpoint is in the minority should act in a way that will produce a result as close as possible to that viewpoint. Being willing to compromise accomplishes this.

A minority of 4 members can block action, and sometimes the status quo is the result closest to your viewpoint. In that case compromise produces an inferior result, at least in the short run.

However if there are stable factions (something I hope we won't see on the TalkBoard), it's in the long run interest of the minority faction to cooperate and compromise. Otherwise the majority faction will learn to ignore the minority faction and steamroll it.
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Old Nov 6, 08, 9:14 pm
  #14  
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I would love to give a politic answer.

What I see of the TB over time is that it has , and has had, a lot of strong personalities on it - members who have deeply held opinions on issues dear to their own hearts as well as those of their constituents. So my thought is that there is room for strong personalities with deeply held opinions. I think I'd be one of those people. I would lean toward the more persuasive side of the positions I espoused, and I think I'd talk articulately about what I believed to be true, whether it was personal sentiment or that of other FT members whose positions I was representing.

That said, I love to be persuaded as well as to persuade. I am a voracious seeker of information and the more opinions, the better to hash out what is in the best interests of FT as a whole. I've been around along enough to have some historical perspective, but I am new enough to remember what it was like to go to a new forum and be confused. And I like hearing all those perspectives.

In terms of building consensus, I am a deep listener and always want to get to the essence of an argument or discussion, so I think I'd be very adept at looking at the "big picture" in the challenges TB faces. I like hearing about other points of view and that often colors my own.

Last edited by squeakr; Nov 6, 08 at 9:14 pm Reason: spelling/grammar
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Old Nov 7, 08, 12:21 am
  #15  
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Consensus is a daily occurrence for me here in Tokyo. As the only American at my firm of 1200 or so, it has been quite an eye-opening experience for me. I have benefitted greatly from this education in compromise. The conversations internally are all in Japanese and as such are subject to the very, very Japanese concept of “Nemawashi” (Nay’-ma-wah-shee). This requires one to get the concept to be presented to be manipulated into a form or state that will likely not be disagreed with when presented at a group meeting. In reality what this means is seeing any idea or opinion presented by any team member as belonging to everyone.

I want to come back to that in a second.

First however, I think it is important to note that I often hear from peers that they are having trouble in a negotiation because they understand the other side’s point but do not agree. I also hear that they do not understand why someone cannot agree because their own idea is so logical. This very dualistic approach to things is exactly what limited me prior to living here for the past 18 years. I am now a firm believer in the common problem, common solutions approach to resolution.

As part of TalkBoard, I would see all of the pother people on the board as part of the same common purpose unit of which I was a part. That would mean that any difference of opinion on issues would simply be a different way of looking at the same problem. That every difference could be solved through compromise, allowing for staggered solutions, and by truly feeling that what the other person had to offer was exactly I should be listening to as a member of the team. If they were to do the same vis a vis me, I sincerely believe, based on years and years of experience as lead negotiator on many deals for our company that the progress of the TalkBoard would be terrific.

I honestly believe that of all the ways in which I could add value, this is perhaps the biggest asset I bring to the group. I hope that we will be able to use my skill set after the election.
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