Re: Forming a Group LO2832

Ray, James A (
Fri Sep 15 14:09 EDT 1995

Replying to LO2710 --

Bill Mitchell writes (8-Sept)
(I've been travelling, so sorry for the delayed response!)

>Question: In order to form an environment for dialogue to begin to take
>place what is the minimum number of assumptions that need understanding
>and enrollment. My early thoughts would point toward two:
> 1) We all want the project to provide the best result that we can
> 2) Everyone is acting rationally toward that goal.
>Therefore when there is a difference of opinion we can trace it to one of
>two causes:
> 1) People have different levels of knowledge about the topic and
>so we need to educate each other so that we possess the same understanding
>of the characteristics of the problem.
> 2) We have different assumptions about what is important and we
>need to explore the assumptions so that we can all learn and grow

Tobin Quereau adds (10-Sept)
>Here I would suggest that differences of opinion can very profitably come
>from 3) differing _perspectives_ of the "problem" and that this is not
>quite the same as assumptions and is probably as valuable to explore.
>This is linked perhaps to my earlier point about everyone's contribution
>being worthy of attention. If the core group is able to adequately capture
>and examine the various "perspectives" of the experts, themselves, and
>others, my sense is that the illumination of the core issues will be more
>thorough and more fruitful as well. Often what is needed most when
>confronted with a "problem" is a new perspective which turns it into an
>opportunity or a resource.
>How about someone else's "perspective". Come on in, the water's fine!


IMHO, this is a great start, and can be enhanced with the utilization of a
few simple models / tools. While I have facilitated the development of
multiple "task teams" during the last 5-10 years, I have only recently
(last 2 years) utilized the Ladder of Inference as a tool for establishing
the context for dialogue. This context is absolutely critical for
constructive inquiry, and therefore for meaningful solutions to our most
pressing organizational problems.

I have adapted the Ladder of Inference in another model which I've used
successfully with such groups, a model I call "Angles of Inference". At
some point, I suppose I'll write this up with detailed applications (for
the next edition of the Fieldbook?) after I'm comfortable that it really
is a new idea. (LO'ers thoughts/comments/feedback sought here ;-)

Essentially, "Angles of Inference" describes the following relationship:

The distance between the initial conclusions reached by two individuals
after the observation of a single obervable event will be at least as
great as the distance betwen their respective values and beliefs.

This relationship might be depicted as follows: (best viewed using a fixed
width font)

      Conclusion A  <------------->     Conclusion B
               \                /
         Assumptions              Assumptions
                 \       /
          Added Meaning  Added Meaning
                \      /
               Selected Data
                  \     /
             Observable Event or Data
                    \ /  
                    / \
                   /   \
            Beliefs     Beliefs
                 /       \
                /         \   
               /           \
              /             \
             /               \
       Values  -------------  Values

               Angles of Inference
             (copyright James A. Ray)

I believe it is only through the use of tools such as the Ladder of
Inference and Dialogue that two (or more) individuals can achieve a shared
interpretation of the actual event or data. The value of diversity in our
organizations is that is provides a rich source of alternative
perspectives which can be tapped to evaluate actual events or resulting
information, leading to a much richer understanding of the potential
impact on the organization.

However, without a forum for exchanging these diverse perspectives, the
organization will benefit only from the perspective of the most persuasive
individuals (rewarding advocacy over inquiry). Thus, dialogue should lead
to greater alignment of the "final" conclusions, first by generating
agreement about relevant assumptions and perhaps resulting in shared
"added meanings" and/or "selected data".

It should be noted that the objective is *not* to completely align the
beliefs and values of individuals within the organization. Doing so may
very well deprive the organization of the benefits of diversity (see
above). After all, just because individuals "see" things the same way
doesn't mean they're correct! The key is the use of such tools and
techniques to enhance individual and, ultimately, organizational learning.

Again, I'm very interested in the LO'er reaction to this model, and I hope
it adds value to your efforts as well!

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