Sunday, July 10, 2005

Collaborative Disagreements: Negotiating Clashes in CoPs

There is a lot of fluff over cooperation, namely how to contrast those situations "when the pursuit of self-interest by each leads to a poor outcome for all". Of course (and I say of course because some people, to my astonishment, still doubt about it), if you (generic) want to be part of a group, you have to learn to be cooperative, can't possibly expect the group to do what you want (or not to do what you don't want do).

A CoP is something more than a group. When we look at a bunch of books on a shelf, we might refer to them as a group of books, for sure not as "a CoP of books", and that is because they have no personal relationship with one another.

Some could say that a CoP isn't necessarily the best outcome for all the involved parties, however. I claim - and this is an opinion - that being able to generate meaning together with other people is always better than generating it alone, because one mind is always more limited that many minds, even when your mind (supposedly) know more.

Then the issue becomes a methodological one: is cooperation a better way to have many minds generate meaning, or is competition a more appropriate means? Again my opinion is that cooperation is always better because it harbors the possibility of a more balanced solution to a dilemma, over a one-sided black-and-white I-won-it-all one.

This being said, the focal points become:
    1. Is consensus the best way to foster a cooperative behaviour? That is: do we have to disagree first and compromise after, or try to reach an agreement as first thing in the morning?
    2. Which topics (if any) should be solved by consensus?
    3. When does consensus become groupthink?

Consensus might be dangerous, especially for a CoP, which is said to be (by many) a place where debates and innovations are possible because of a trusting climate that allows members to engage in experiential learning without fear of being corrected, discouraged or reprimanded. So if consensus is the first target, members will go for the agreement right away, rather than being themselves first, and then negotiate.

On the other hand negotiation, handled by an expert facilitator, is mandatory whenever some real problem arises.

I'll go beyond this: if you are a CoP facilitator, whenever clashes don't happen, engineer them. That is: ask controversial questions, post controversial material and let the CoP raise its wisdom above your facilitation skills to learn how solve the clash in action, in a creative way.

Lead your CoP members to:
1) treat other members the way they treat themselves
2) learn to cooperate with one another
3) crash happily
4) enjoy the process
5) be happy with whatever the outcome
6) learn something out of mistakes

They will have fun and better themselves, you will have fun and better yourself too.

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3 Comments:

Blogger PuppyPaat said...

I liked your blog a LOT!!!

Seems to me like this way of leading a CoP:

1) treat other members the way they treat themselves
2) learn to cooperate with one another
3) crash happily
4) enjoy the process
5) be happy with whatever the outcome
6) learn something out of mistakes

Would be a good manifesto for leading one’s own life!

I also agree that conflict avoidance, so prevalent in some western societies, should be avoided like the plague (in CoP as well as in life).

1:43 pm  
Anonymous Mohamed Chaoui. said...

You say : "I'll go beyond this: if you are a CoP facilitator, whenever clashes don't happen, engineer them"
That means that it can happen to have no clashes? IMHO it's abnormal situation. I think that if a facilitator remarks that there is no conflicts for a long time he must ask himself what go wrong in the community.

3:56 pm  
Blogger Rosanna Tarsiero said...

Mohamed,

thanks for your comments.

My point was precisely the point you are making. It's abnormal not to have clashes, and if it ever happens not to have any, it means something in the CoP isn't quite working. A great diagnostic tool is stirring things up yourself :)

2:28 am  

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