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Chapter 3. Negotiating Consensus > Putting It Together

Putting It Together

Sometimes starting from a set of prior proposals or already worked out solutions cannot be avoided. Two parts of the same company may have done prior work that we would not want to discount or waste, for example. Some companies even promote design competition in a kind of internal free market of ideas. When the time comes to build one system, usually the authors or competitors make their own pitch, introducing and describing their approaches. It can facilitate consensus building to have one person, someone who is less invested than the proponents, present all the alternatives before inviting the proposers into the discussion. Setting the right tone for what follows can help progress toward a consensus design. Participants can be encouraged to look for the strengths and advantages in other proposals before moving on to any critique. Realism about the starting positions can be encouraged: “Since it is more important for us to know about technical weaknesses in our systems than to pretend to have everything perfect, would each of you tell us about the weaknesses of your own approach?”

Where distinct subgroups or teams have been involved in preparing proposed solutions, after the initial discussions each subteam can be invited to go back and improve their own proposal by incorporating what they think are some of the best features of opposing approaches. This means that the next meeting starts with the opposing positions already moved closer together.


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