"How to save the world fast and easy"
(Transcription from the video … 2/9/11)
In this informal presentation Jim describes a strategy for global transformation to his friend, Joe Shirley (www.JoeShirley.com). In the first 23 minutes Jim depicts different levels of our problem, how they interrelate, and how the suggested change would transform them all. Then Jim answers Joe's questions. Although this transcript follows the conversation closely, extra words are dropped and phrases may be slightly modified. Brackets are used to bring forth [missing points] and smooth the conversation.
Jim: This is my section on "How to save the world … fast and easy"… and safe.
I have a scenario to go through that I’m just putting together [involving a number of levels.] It seems to me the first level is our "Environmental Reality." One [key data point of this level] is that we are using one planet Earth and about a third of another right now. So, [as a society] we're past sustainability. We are now in a decline. And we have many millions of people who want to consume like North Americans. All of China and lots of other people. So our consumption is going up.
That's the "Environmental Reality." The next level is "Symptoms”… that we are starting to see already. There is global warming. There is species extinction. There is peak oil. … I guess the news came out today that Saudi Arabia has greatly over estimated what their oil production is capable of. And the examples go on and on … poisons in the drinking water … I don't know all the symptoms but they just go on and on and they are real and we are experiencing them … fish decline.
And then there are the “Drivers.” These are vicious cycles that are driving this change, which hint at possible solutions. One of them is the Tragedy of the Commons that I talk about in my book [Society’s Breakthrough], which describes the nature of a commons. In a competitive special-interest dominated world, people and corporations will try to export their costs to the commons. So they will try and use up the commons as rapidly as possible to get the benefit of it, to get the profits. And so our system is structured to destroy the commons.
[To illustrate another Driver … there's a great video that describes how our system creates waste by moving from production to consumption in a linear, rather than a cyclical way.] It’s called the Story of Stuff. It’s on the web at www.storyofstuff.com.
When you think about [the third Driver], “Banking,” you realize that banking is set up in an odd way. It’s not like loaning somebody your shovel or some “thing.” When you loan money you have to pay back more. There isn’t that extra money. It's like loaning someone a shovel and then having to come up with more shovel to pay it off. So what do you do? How do you create that extra money? Of course it’s created through ever greater economic consumption. So if you go outside and look at anyone passing down the street they're trying to sell someone more stuff —more banking, a bigger house, etc. Our whole system is driven toward consumption [to create that extra money]. (See Money as Debt documentary, 2006, Paul Grignon, www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqvKjsIxT_8)
Joe: Increasing consumption.
Jim: Right! And of course that’s part of the difficulty we have. … OK what are the "Solutions"... the next level? What are we going to do?
One level within “Solutions,” the first sub-level, is “denial.” It's a lot easier to just say, "I can't do anything about this. I’m just going to let this go." Or to just say, “it’s not happening.” “Global warming is not happening. It's not really there." You've got 99.9% of scientists saying it is there, but some people are saying, “No. It is obviously a plot by Al Gore to make money.” Or something like that. It gets ludicrous, really.
In this realm of denial there is a simple model that I took from George Land [Grow or Die: The Unifying Principle of Transformation, 1973]. I think it is a beautiful model. Any living system that gets going, once it starts going, it will grow and then it tapers off because it starts to consume the resources of the environment. And then at some point people will notice “my gosh we've gotten away from our basic principles because we’ve made modifications. We need to get back to basics!” Land calls this the "back to basics bump." It gives you a slight improvement at first, but when you get back to basics you start trashing the environment even worse than you were. There are a lot of examples. I think the Tea party is a good example. That’s on the Right side of politics. On the Left side there are similar kinds of things. Maybe on the Left they imagine that certain solutions will solve things, like if we just educate everyone everything will be fine.
The next level within Solutions is, “making change within the system.” People tell themselves "I do what I can.” And there’s a lot of cheerleading going on about this. A lot of people will talk about all the wonderful things that are happening with Social Entrepreneurs and say it’s all going to get better … Natural capitalism. These are all great things. We’ve got to do them.
Joe: Corporate social responsibility
Jim: Yes, corporate social responsibility or education. They say, “If we just improve people’s education that will make the difference.” There are lots of things we can do within the system. Like … just learning new skills.
Changing the culture is not a systems change. “If we change all the people, won't that change the system?” No, not really. That’s not what a system is. You can change all the pieces of a bicycle but you still have a bicycle. Right?
Changing the politics is really what it boils down to. Politics is … how do we think, talk and make collective decisions? In our economic system … how do we allocate resources? who makes stuff? who gets to live in the fancy house on the bluff and who has to live in the slums? How do we allocate resources and decide what to produce? And the idea is to set up a system where we can just have freedom. All of our processes are based on the idea of individual freedom. We’ve got to keep that as a value. This is really about how we create values, share this planet and relate.
So if you change the economics you change the culture. All of a sudden families have jobs. They have time to be with the kids. If you change the economics, you change politics. You change the politics, you change the economics, you change the culture. So each of these are very much interrelated [economics, politics and culture]. And if we go in and improve any one of these, we affect all the other levels we've discussed so far. Then the field of Solutions becomes more effective too. We can break out of denial. And when we break out of denial we can start making all kinds of improvements.
But how do we get this to happen? Who is the “We” that makes these big systems changes? That is the question. This is another level of change. I’ll call it the "Meta-System” level. And that's where the leverage is. To me there are three different meta-systems, if you will. These are basic ways we hang out together on this planet. The first one is the Triangle, which is a kind of hierarchy. We can imagine the power struggle. The people that win get to be the king. And everyone else lines up with whatever the King wants, or the Lord of the Manor.
Eventually, the Triangle got shifted to a system based on freedom and competition [the Box]. So the Triangle is based on loyalty and allegiance to the leader. And the Box is a system [with a social contract in charge]. It's based on competition and individual freedom. And the problem is, of course … that when we exercise our individual freedoms this does not necessarily translate into collective wisdom. So how do we shift [to the Circle, where individual freedom exists but collective wisdom is the natural outcome]? … This is the change we are interested in. How do we form into this collective “We" that can make intelligent choices about how we align our politics, our economics, and our culture?
Joe: So the hierarchy is based on loyalty. What do you call the second one?
The Box. It’s a game. Essentially what happened is that the Founders set up a game. They said here's the Constitution, here’s the social contract. This is what we’re going to do … “goodbye.” So now there is this game in charge. And the idea is that we’re all going to compete within the rules. And there are structures that set up penalties if you don’t obey the rules.
Joe: Is this the legal system?
Yes. … It’s certainly true in politics that we have this competition within the rules. We have representatives. We have this special interest battle process. It is certainly true in economics too. We call it the "free market place." It is set up to be a competition within the rules. And it’s true in the culture too. Because what we end up with then is … everything is interrelated … so we end up with a competitive cultural system and we think in game-like terms … object-subject, winning.
Joe: It seems like when you look at those three—Triangle, Box, Circle—how they change from one to the other, what I’m curious about is in the [Circle]. What holds it together? There’s power in hierarchy. Someone has more power than everyone else. That holds it together. Loyalty is what serves it. In the second one, [the Box], the rule of law holds it together. Competition and freedom are what serve it. And in the third one, [the Circle] … what holds it together and what serves it?
Jim: What holds [the Circle] together is a conversation. And it’s a particular kind of conversation. It's a "timeout, how are we doing? Is this the kind of world we want? Are we okay with this?" [kind of conversation]. And participating in this conversation is all of us. It's what I call a “choice-creating conversation.” It's not decision-making, yes/no, but we're trying to figure out what’s best for everybody, and be creative and collaborative. It’s all of us and it’s where we seek unity, one answer that works for everybody.
This is called a “We the People conversation.” And it happened a couple of hundred years ago. It was how we set up this [Box meta-system in the first place]. There was a “We the People” then. The founders got together and said, “here's what we propose.” But then there was this conversation among the whole system and all the people said, “Hey, this would work if we have a Bill of Rights.” So "We" added a Bill of Rights after the founders met. And at that point with the Bill of Rights in place, pretty much all the stakeholders—not the Native Americans and blacks and women and non property holders—said, "yes." At the time it was a brilliant leap forward. The people said, “Hey, let's try this new system.”
It’s been over 200 years since then and now it’s breaking down. It's breaking down because we can no longer be free to make individual choices and ignore the collective impact. And that is the whole thing. We have a collective intelligence that is missing. It's not that we need to get rid of individual freedom. We need to keep that. But we just need to add one piece, a certain kind of conversation to our existing meta-system, [so we think about what we're doing].
This is the Box we've got now (Jim points to the economic system, political system, and culture, as an interactive triad within the Box). We just need to add a meta-conversation to that. We just need to stop and think in a creative collaborative way every so often. And this creates a larger “We the People” that’s asking, “OK, how do we make our system work in an intelligent way?”
And the way we can add this conversation is through two pieces that are critical: One is Dynamic Facilitation because it focus’ on the essential conversation, choice-creating. Now there're lots of people out there trying to make the shift to "deliberative democracy." But deliberation happens within the Box meta-system. Deliberation is like … "how do we get somebody to [identify the problem] and give us the options where we weigh the options and then we vote on what’s best?" So it's not a choice-creating conversation. It's not the heart of democracy where all of us somehow visit together asking, “How are we doing? Is this working? How do we fix things? How do we make things work for you too?” And where all of us come together on one answer. This is the missing conversation. Deliberative democracy is great stuff but it fits within the Box. It doesn’t give us the [conversation that can take us to the Circle].
Dialogic processes [don't give us the Circle either]: Better dialogue in Congress. Involving people in dialogue. This sort of thing. This is good too. But it isn’t the needed choice-creating conversation. Because dialogue doesn’t actually come up with answers. Dialogue yields better understandings and personal transformation.
So Dynamic Facilitation is one of the pieces. And when you use Dynamic Facilitation it’s a very simple thing. You as facilitator elevate the thinking of everyone in the room. People just show up and they start talking, but [because you are using Dynamic Facilitation] they find themselves talking at this high level … choice-creating.
Now, that works for a room of people. … How to do this for a very large system of people like a global system? Or a national system? Or a city? And that's where the Wisdom Council process comes in. (This is the second piece.0 The Wisdom Council uses a small number of randomly selected people who are dynamically facilitated. They choose issues and come up with unanimous choices. And report them back to the larger population in a way that involves the larger population in the conversation. So these two pieces are part of what we call the “Wise Democracy Strategy,” [or "how to save the world … fast and easy"], which is described more at the website www.wisedemocracy.org.
The bottom line on this stuff is that these ideas are now being tested. At first they were just ideas. In fact, when I wrote my book in 2002 I thought implementing this had to be through a US Constitutional Amendment. Because I didn't understand the importance of choice-creating. And now I realize that choice-creating is a distinct form of thinking … it’s the pivotal piece. Now, we know we don't need a Constitutional Amendment to [change the meta-system to a Circle. We can just set things in motion using the Wisdom Council process … See the plan]
----- QUESTIONS and ANSWERS
Joe: If I'm sitting back and listening to what you say … I think all right, this is about creating a different conversation among We the People in order to decide, like the founders of this country did 200 years ago, about what changes to the system do we need to make. How do we create a new system that works? … Right?
Jim: Yes, except I don't like the word “decide.” But, yes.
Joe: So to discover/create. … So, what makes them better able to come up with changes to the system that need to happen? What makes them better equipped to do that than our experts?
Jim: You mean the randomly selected people?
Joe: Yes! And, who's going to believe them and actually make the changes?
Jim: For one thing … this is not a process of excluding the experts. Right now experts are getting together all the time telling us what the answers are. They are largely ignored. President Obama just had a commission come back and say what we need to do economically and of course it was politically incorrect, so it is ignored. The experts are in a position to do some things but not to make that kind of difference.
But if we randomly select … and if you are part of the pool and I’m part of the pool, all of us are part of the pool … and if we randomly select 12 people and bring them together for a short time, individually, they are not special. [But collectively] they are "Us." And if you and I are committed to watch their presentation …. Like if it was enacted as a Constitutional Amendment then we would be watching. [The Wisdom Council] essentially presents a State of the Union message from the people to the people, instead of from the President to the people.
So, if you randomly select 12 people and if they choose the issue, and if they reach unity — and that's what happens every time we do a Wisdom Council — these people come back pumped! They say, “Here's where we started on the topic of education. We didn’t know what to do. We didn't know enough about it, but we decided that ….Oh! (Jim remembers an example) … One group took this issue of education and came back and said, “What are we doing? We're a society. We are not paying attention to our kids. We aren’t taking care of our kids! What kind of society does not adequately fund education?"That's basically what they said. And all of a sudden there arises a collective recognition. … We can all say this as individuals, but when one randomly selected group chooses that topic and says it together … and all of us are hearing, that's different.
And [after the audience goes] into small groups to talk, it turns out that when you pan around the room everyone in the whole room, the virtual room of society, is basically saying, “Yes, I think so too.” So here's a way to facilitate the whole system to be in a choice-creating conversation.
Experts can't do that … facilitate near unity with energy toward getting something accomplished. The experts can tell us something but there isn’t energy to get it to happen. But in this case … here’s the other point … now we have the experts in the room. So we have this random group saying here is what we need to do. If somebody is an expert and says, “No, that’s not right. Here are some things you don't understand …." Then everyone turns and looks to them for guidance at this point.
[The Wisdom Council Process] is ongoing, by the way. So after a while a new group meets and they say, “Oh gosh, we learned something from the experts since last time so here're some revisions to what the first Wisdom Council thought.”
This randomly selected group is the first time, maybe ever, that there’s a microcosm of the people. And when they speak unanimously in a way that all of us say, “Yes!" And if they choose the issue, we’ve actually created a legitimate “We the People.” This Wisdom Council could say at the national level, for example, “that was a nice Constitution but here's a better one.” And if the rest of us all say, “Yes,” then we can have a new constitution. Nobody officially called a Constitutional Convention. It's just facilitating a new conversation with all of us included. Then we have this new power … all of us reaching unity, where We are actually in charge of the System.
Joe: So, convince me that it is actually possible to reach unity. We have people on widely disparate polls fighting each other right now. What's so magical about this that it actually can create unity? How does that happen?
Jim: The key piece is to realize that we are living inside a system that is based on competition. So we have people polls apart because they are inside this system.
Joe: I don't see the connection.
Jim: If we can take people outside of the [Box] system then we find out that we're not that far apart. If we are just visiting together about what we all want and how we see the problem and what we are trying to do, we can engage one another and reach unity quite easily.
Joe: So it's like the system creates roles for us. And one of the key definitions of those roles is to be antagonists.
Jim: Sure, if you are going to set up a system where somebody proposes an idea and we’re going to discuss it and vote, especially if we are going to have representatives, we're going to have an argument. We’re going to have somebody proposing an idea … and this is all about special interests … so those against the idea will marshal their forces to try and argue against it. And those in favor will try and fight them.
Joe: Because what's put out is a partial idea. It's not an idea that's been generated by choice-creating. It's an idea that’s been generated by the special-interests.
Joe: So then you have the warring of special interests. “I need this and I want that. How do I get you to give up your piece so I can have mine?” And so those different needs ... person A needs thing A, and person B needs thing B, that’s not A. Those different needs aren’t going to go away. How does choice-creating get them to agree on the same thing?
Jim: An illustration is … one time I facilitated a group on abortion. Obviously they had the pro-life position and the pro-choice position, and it seems like those are the only two answers. But as soon as you enter into the spirit of choice-creating, you realize, neither answer works. Neither answer actually solves the problem. In fact, people have forgotten what the problem is. So as soon as we get into choice-creating we wonder, “What is the problem?” And the problem turns out to be, "How do we help every child to be born into a family that wants and loves them?” Something like that.
Well, now we are working together trying to figure out how to do that. And we look at the idea of making a law as a stupid idea. So we just discount that whole process. We probably can come to something that's more creative than that if we are in the Circle environment. If we are in the Box environment we are stuck, because we have to go back and forth among only two possibilities.
Joe: Okay so what you just said raises a flag. In this abortion example we realize that what we really need to do is create the conditions where every child gets to be born into a family that wants them. Right? And we realize that a law isn’t the way to do it. So we just chuck the law. When you say that, I think, okay we have this special environment with this choice-creating atmosphere and we generate wonderful ideas but then implementing them happens in the messy world where some people aren’t even part of this conversation. They haven’t been plugged into it and are still serving special interests that will exploit whatever they possibly can. And without laws and strict rules to control what they are able to access, we have chaos.
Jim: Yes. Those same people have roles. They might be CEOs or whatever. But if you tap those same people on the shoulder …
Joe: [What about] about your average criminal. Or psychopaths. People who take advantage of others?
Jim: There are some people who are psychopaths with their wires crossed. But when I started working in the sawmill environment where I developed Dynamic Facilitation, we had so many people that were characterized that way by the foremen. The foremen would point out to me that these people can't do this kind of thinking. One of their favorite expressions was “95% of the people are good people but 5% are culls. You can’t do anything about them. That’s it.”
So I asked them, “Identify the culls for me” and we’ll start this program, meeting on a regular basis with Dynamic Facilitation. And a curious thing happened. The good people are the people that sat there quietly with their arms folded and said, “I don't have a problem. I'm fine. Everything is great.” But the culls were really upset. They’re the ones bashing their fist through the walls and kicking the Coke machine. They're the ones who when you ask, “What are some of the things we might talk about?” … would explode with energy and ideas. It was a flip. Like the culls all of a sudden became the leaders. Because the others … in fact the others often had to go through a process of finding their anger, finding their rage. They had suppressed their own selves so deeply that they had to rediscover that rage to recover.
You know it got to the point where people would … usually they got mad at me…. they’d come rushing up to me really, really angry about something and there was a little click in my mind that would say, "Oh good! We've got another one." One guy angrily said to me, "I didn't sleep at all last night because of you. I had completely forgotten about that pay cut [we had four years ago!]" [laughter]
So anyway, my experience is that people transform. … People transform. … Everybody wants this. The reason why they adhere to the old way is because they don't think it's possible to change. They don't think it's possible to achieve that kind of change.
Joe: So one important next step would be to convince people that it's possible so that they’d actually participate.
Jim: Yes, it's true. But the participation we want … that's difficult to achieve … is for all people to pay attention to what the Wisdom Council says when it reports its results. Originally, I thought that we would convince people that this process needs to be an amendment, and the amendment would pass and now all of a sudden we don't have a problem because it's Constitutionally sanctioned by We the People. [Everyone would pay attention then.]
But in a community, how do you get everyone to pay attention to a small group of people? They seem to pay attention to 22 guys on a football field, or on a soccer field. We know the technology required to get most people to pay attention to a small group of people. How can we use that technology? We don't have to get anyone's permission to do this. We don't need permission from Congress or the United Nations. We don't have to get the permission of the special interests. We can just do it. All we’re doing is adding a conversation to the system and getting people to pay attention, which we know how to do. Somebody knows how to do it.
Joe: So you're seeing this Wisdom Council Process as starting in parallel and small at first, growing organically as it starts producing wise proclamations and as people start paying attention to it.
Jim: That was my hypothesis. But I'm finding that that's harder to do than I thought. So what's happening now is there's a new invention called the “Creative Insight Council.” That's where we pick the topic ahead of time, randomly select people, [and hold the Wisdom Council in that way]. This has a big advantage [in getting people to pay attention]. [Government leaders are excited about this] as a new way to involve citizens in solving tough issues. So governments are saying, “Hey, our budgets are cut. We’re cutting services. We don't know what to do. We don't have any options. We can’t raise taxes. What can we do?” Well, here's a way to involve the citizens in figuring out what to do. It’s a new door of opportunity that government [in the United States] doesn't know about yet. But if they did they would jump on it.
I just heard about this on Sunday. It’s about a community in Austria … in Tyrol, where they had a covered swimming pool and they wanted to close it down or rebuild it. And they didn’t know what to do about the money. So they randomly selected a Creative Insight Council to look into this. And the breakthrough they had was … “Hey, this is an emotional thing. This is not about a building. This is where we learned to swim. This is something that fits into our community that we need to have. But we don't need a big one. We just need to have something there of high quality. So we can reduce the size of the whole thing. We just need a place where our children can learn to swim. That’s what we want.” Nobody had that option on the map. So that's what the group came up with. And so the government is thrilled. Here’s a way to deal with these complex issues. So other cities around are thinking, “Hey, we've got some issues we need help with too.”
So I think that's the door to getting people to pay attention. Because now we can work through governments. They get paid to take these steps. This way we can get paid to consult to government or to a conglomerations of nonprofit organizations. And then when the government sends out a letter to the population, saying, "We need you to pay attention to this citizen group and could you please come if you are selected," it gets lots more attention.
Joe: It's like it’s a super-enhanced focus group.
Jim: Yes, [except a focus group helps the people who are really in charge to learn what they need to know to make better decisions.]
Joe: A focus group as I understand it is a representative group of customers, for example to find out how are you liking this product?”Or what kind of change would you like to see? Change "A" or change "B" in this service? And get people’s real thoughts and compile those for marketing or product development.
Jim: Yeah, so marketing receives the information. You go away and we’re marketing and we make better decisions. But that's not what's happening here. What's happening here is that [We] are the decision-maker. [You and I] are bringing the random citizen group in to evolve a group conclusion. And they walk out and say, “Hey, this is really cool. We've got this figured out.” And all the citizens are invited [to attend] and the citizens go “Oh!” and they turn and talk [to one another], and then you get people to "call out" what they think, and we find out that the whole room is feeling the same way. So it's from the people to the people. It's not from individual people to [those in charge]. It’s from a symbol of “We the People” to all the people. And then we realize that anyone who is paying attention is pretty much on board.
Joe: So that seems like a really an enormous leap to be able to create that. Right? And it seems like the magic sauce is in the Dynamic Facilitation of the group, where something like this can emerge that can resonate with the larger population who wasn't even in the room.
Jim: Right. I didn't know this when I wrote my book. I mentioned Dynamic Facilitation, not like "hey this is necessary." … "However you come up with unity that's fine,” is what I thought. But what I realized when we did the Wisdom Councils is that they were working even though we didn't have an Amendment. I had thought it required an Amendment and that was the end of it. I didn't think doing it in communities would accomplish much because there was no “We the People” to bless this group. But it turned out it was the choice-creating quality of thinking that is the [magic sauce]. When this group comes up with its joint conclusion, it creates a "we" … and this “we” is resonant.
Joe: So illuminate that. How does that happen? Because I can imagine being skeptical about that or just not really getting this resonance, or that choice-creating can come up with decisions everybody will be on board with.
Jim: Key is the word "decision." They don’t come up with “decisions.” If they came up with decisions, then nobody would be on board.
Joe: Explain that difference.
Jim: Well a decision is something that you make where you weigh options. The root for the word "decision" is to “cut away,” you cut away and select one option from many.
Joe: So when this group in Austria came up with this idea that what we really need is a smaller pool so we have a place for our kids to go learn. And it’s all about the emotional history of it and everything. And we don't need to create this big massive behemoth. They cut away the option to just fill in the pool. They cut away the option to rebuild the old one. Didn’t they decide on "here’s the option that really works?"
Jim: No, they didn’t. This is where our language breaks down because business likes to hear the word "decide," or “decision.” So I use it when I talk it to business people. But, actually, technically, no. What they did is … they created an option that wasn't there. They didn't cut anything away. They were constantly in a mode of creation.
Joe: OK, So there was something that was created that wasn't on the map before.
Jim: [Yes] It wasn't like they cut anything way or judged anything bad. There was no judgment. What they did is … they just talked in a creative way and then looked around and realized that everyone was kind of on the same page. And then when they go into the presentation and tell the story of what they did, anybody who's watching kind of puts away that whole decision-making mode. Especially, that self-interested, negotiation mode. And they kind of get into the story of what's going on. And then they are realizing at the same time … It’s like when you start to listen to these people, you realize, “Oh, they’re not thinking like that. They’re thinking this other way. They are trying to find out what's best for everybody, and here's what they came up with. They’re not doing the normal political thing.”
Each person watching gets that and says, “Oh, I know how to do that kind of thinking. Yeah, OK, I can see that.” And then they get into the small groups and the [old decision-making] kind of thinking sneaks in and comes back and they go back and forth a little bit. But if we can keep the new thinking going [then it can become the normal way we talk].
This is what we do when we call “time out.” It’s beyond playing the game. In the "time out" we can be in a new place, like in the balcony visiting and sipping coffee … trying to figure out what's best for everybody. And then [we might say], “Okay let's set the System back up and compete within the rules." … Now I want to win. But we call "timeout"every so often to ask if this game is working for all of us.
Joe: You were kind of getting to it. But let’s come back to this idea of choice-creating. I think I got this difference between the decision-making process where you’re weighing options and saying, “It’s not this. Not this. This is the best thing we’ve got,” versus a more creative, “lets find the best way to serve everybody, and everything is on the table, and things we couldn’t imagine are possibilities,” and something emerges from that.
Jim: Yes, except as facilitator I don't have to say that ahead of time. All I’m doing is facilitating it to happen.
Joe: Tell me a little more about what actually makes that happen. We’re not accustomed to this. It’s not part of my experience going into a city council meeting or a board meeting or any kind of meeting. It doesn't happen like that. What’s different with the ingredients [of Dynamic Facilitation] that bring that out of ordinary people?
Jim: In a normal meeting what we do is we tell people to keep their frustrations down. “You shouldn’t be frustrated.” Or if you are frustrated, [in a hearing] we’ll give you three minutes and you can say what you want. Then be quiet. Something like that. In other words "you need to self manage," that’s what we tell them. And what happens is that the person, has to say, “Well OK, I’ll just sit on all this energy I’ve got.” But that energy happens to be [valuable, it's] a big portion of what we need. That's their passion. [In normal meetings] we are not allowing that in the room. So that person [becomes inauthentic], only working with part of themselves. So when they leave the room they aren’t committed to what we "decided" because they weren’t fully there.
What we're doing [with Dynamic Facilitation] is we're [working with the feelings. We start by asking], "What issue do you want to work on?” We start with issues people really care about. And then we say, “Tell me what your answer is, Tell me what you think ought to happen.” And they hear themselves and other people who are having concerns. Actually other people want to say, “that’s a pile of crap,” you know. But [in Dynamic Facilitation] we say, “Oh, you have concerns about that. Maybe you could tell us what the concerns are."
So [we structure the meeting so everyone is listening], where each person is bringing a little piece of the puzzle. And all of a sudden we find people slipping into puzzle-solving mode, rather than being huffy. And now we’re all being creative about it. And we realize that each person, no matter what they say is bringing value. And we're looking at it [with curiosity]. We’re saying stuff, and reflecting on what we are saying, and [noticing that what I said] doesn’t make quite as much sense as I thought. And I’m also seeing what the group is saying. So each one of us is seeing what I'm saying and what the group is saying. And it becomes interesting to figure out, “how do we get all these pieces into a message that we're all saying?”
In this setting it’s okay that someone says in frustration, “That’s a pile!” … [This statement is just one more piece of the puzzle that goes on the charts.] We have this impossible-to-solve problem that we are trying to solve. And if creativity really exists then of course we can solve it. Or at least, we can enter into a space where a breakthrough might happen.
Our normal systems are set up to outlaw choice-creating. If we facilitate choice-creating into being then the existing system cannot survive. We cannot have the Box in charge, for example, if we periodically take time out to come together to figure out what We want. Because that means, “We” are now in charge. Eventually, this is going to dawn on us … that, “We’re actually in charge of this place. We don't have to be embedded in this system heading for disaster.” Which is what we've got. We are all embedded in these systems headed for disaster. But, if there's a “we,” a “We the People” that is thoughtful and respectful and cognizant, then We could set up new systems that work a whole lot better. In fact if there is this “We,” then there already is a new system.
So just us, a few of us, [can use the Wisdom Council to facilitate the new "We the People" conversation that] can transform the political system, the economic system, the culture, and the whole thing.
So, how do we think, talk and make collective choices? Well, if there's a “We” in place, this supersedes the old political system. Now it’s “We" in charge … thinking, talking and making political choices. And maybe a “We” that allocates resources and determines what to produce, etc. Or, We can set up new systems to make those choices automatically [in a better way than what we have now]. By itself, [establishing this new conversation] essentially is a new economic and political system.
Joe: So we're talking about systems change. The system as it is has some very strong stakeholders … people who are invested in the system as it is because they're winning the game. The people who are winning the game aren’t going to much like just becoming one of “we.” What do we do about that?
Jim: It seems like [they would think that way] but this is a very exciting conversation. It's a conversation we don't have right now and most don't think is possible to achieve. As long as I don't think it's possible to join a “We the People” conversation, then I'm going to be hanging on to my special interest [and trying to win]. But as soon as I’m part of a “We” conversation with everybody [then my motivation changes. It turns out that] I actually do want everyone to thrive. It's better for me. It’s better for all of us. It’s more fun. I'm actually a person who might save somebody's life if I saw them in desperate need, but I've forgotten that part of me. I've put that aside [to win the competition]. So these CEOs and whatever are carrying on in the system. They take time to go to their cabin in the woods. And they like nature. That’s who they really are. This [new conversation] is about remembering who we really are, and what our values really are. And we forget them [because the Box system we live within requires us to compete].
So, here's the danger … This is an actual solution strategy for solving this problem, the whole mess we've been talking about, all at once, a short cut. And whoever's watching this video [and the next one, which is better I hope], is likely to just walk away and not think about it anymore. We have a nonprofit organization that has no money and we're trying to make this change. [People should respond.]
But this change is also inevitable. This is not an option. I don't see this as an option. Does someone have something else better? There might be something better. I don't know what it is. But this is going to happen. Pretty soon the veil will fall from people's eyes and they are going to [realize this problem is real and jump to the front of the movement and] say, “I've been a supporter of this a long time, ever since the beginning.” … Yes, this needs to happen!
Here's the plan.
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