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Systemic Consensus: The Future of Decision-Making

Yesterday I watched a movie about two merging innovation companies, both in programming business, but in different coding languages. They decided to merge in order to succeed with their shared vision, but argued about which programming language to choose, because they were not compatible. One or the other party would have had to step out of their comfort zone and trust. They had quite a hard time discussing it. I suddenly wondered, if they would have found a mutual way through Systemic Consensus.

The beauty of Systemic Consensus

If you don’t know the method already, let me try to explain Systemic Consensus to you by an example: If you are out with a couple of dear friends and looking for a suitable, nice restaurant to hang out. What do you do? Firstly, you probably decide on parameters like: In which city or district do you want to go out? What criteria matter? Should it be just around the corner or is the right ambiance more important to all of you, etc. etc.. Then you collect suggestions. Up until this point it is the normal way of decision-making we are already used to, right?

What comes next is the following: If someone is allergic to nuts in the group – „The Brownie-Factory“-suggestion will get resistance. Because if chosen, the one allergic to nuts would have to pass. Normally it will be important for the group that everyone gets the most possible joy out of this evening: So you may ask something like „Let’s go to xy – any objections?“ That’s where the magic happens.

Create win/win situations

In normal business situations there is one leading person or party deciding in the end. THIS person is responsible for the effort of gaining as much information as possible confirming the decision and will be held responsible for the then-made decision by him- or herself. Whereas Systemic Consensus demands responsibility from everyone in the group and the group takes the decision. It is not hardening fronts in contrast to common arguing practice. Instead of hardening one’s heart against the other opinion and defending it which leads to a typical win/lose-situation, you find a way to converge and finally succeed in a win/win-situation. And what’s best: It’s a quick method. Especially compared to the alternatives we are used to.

In my workshops, I try to use Systemic Consensus to find a way wherever it is suitable. However, three criterions are essential and have to be met:

  1. All parties have to have an interest in finding a win/win-situation
  2. All stakeholders have to take part in the process
  3. Overall conditions have to be clear: Knowledge of advantages and disadvantages of different solutions have to be shared and understood

Coming back to the movie I mentioned before: One party was emotionally bound to their solution which made them in no way interested in finding a win/win-situation in the first place. However, I strongly believe Systemic Consensus would have worked out though. It was an agile working company, they believed in the power of each and every person as valuable part who should be heard and it was no hot and hardened conflict then. As soon as the concerns or objections would have been spoken out, the others usually would have embraced the attitude and would have trusted the other party and therefore new solutions would have followed or existing ones would have been evaluated once more.

The bottleneck I am interested in

However, there is a bottleneck we have to bear in mind: Interest in gathering information. If we manage to find a way to interest people in exploring the world, gain information and take responsibility, we can get to a whole new level. So, whenever I do Design Thinking-Workshops without a given task, I ask one question: “How could people be made interested in information?” If you’d like to be part of one of the next workshops, mail me. I’d enjoy working it out with you.

Whoever is interested in getting to know more, here is a link to a detailed guide for Systemic Consensus provided by the „Institut für Systemisches Konsensieren in Graz“ in German. There are two links in English too, I’d like to recommend: One by, the other one by Enjoy!