Blog > Gradients of agreement

August 20, 2009

IMG_0151Consensus is not my favourite word. I’m often asked to get a ‘consensus view’ in a workshop, which means I have to find out what’s meant by consensus. Here’s some of the meanings I’ve come up against recently.

Consensus means everyone agrees. That’s essentially the same as unanimous agreement. Hmmm.

Consensus means the majority agree. So in a group of 30, is 16 a majority? Eeeek!

There’s no ‘real’ disagreement. As opposed to ‘unreal’ disagreement, I guess. Yikes!

So you can see the dilemma. Discussions often start off civil, and quickly descend into  ‘yes, but…’ (I’m pretending to listen to you BUT I’m really just waiting for an opportunity to tell you why your idea sucks and my idea is SO MUCH BETTER). Sigh.

Sam Kaner, in his excellent book, A Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision Making, describes a seven-scale gradients of agreement. I’ve used this in the past and it’s useful because it gets away from black and white decision making. It’s rarely that any of us COMPLETELY agree or disagree on a particular point.

The brilliant Nicole Hunter (pictured) has come up with an adaptation to the gradients of agreement that I used today for the first time. It won’t be the last time. It’s basically a sociometric scale. It’s done ‘in action’. That means, people are invited to physically go and stand by their choice. This is important. Sitting at your seat and making a choice is a cognitive act. Moving to your choice is a cognitive AND physical act. Often your body knows before your brain does!

Here’s Nic’s Scale (henceforth that’s what I’ll call it – to remind me who provided me with this simple and elegant tool).


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