ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition — May 2003

In This Issue
Seeing Groups–
and the World–
in a New Way
AQP’s National Team Excellence Awards Diary
Ask the PowerPhrase® Expert
Looking Toward the Future



AQP Connections
Articles in Brief
News Bites
What’s Up?
Out of Context
Book Nook

May 2003 News for a Change—Home Page

NFC Index

AQP Home

Book Nook


Society’s Breakthrough! Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
by Jim Rough
1stBooks Library, 2002
ISBN: 0-7596-9168-1
Paperback, 268 pages.
List price $14.50
Overall Rating: ***** Pick it up today!

What is it about our society that perpetuates problems, and how can these enormous “unsolvable” problems be eliminated? This month’s book discusses an exciting potential solution in the “Citizen’s Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” But it is not just about society and politics—it is about harnessing the wisdom of everyday people to create lasting, beneficial change.

Consider the old story of the three blind men and their separate perceptions of an elephant. One thinks that it is like a tree (its leg), the second like a rope (tail), and the third like a snake (trunk). When the elephant causes trouble, each man comes up with a different “solution”—one that fails to solve the problem because he has learned about only part of the elephant. By using Jim Rough’s process, a breakthrough solution could be found that benefits both the men and the elephant: “We might place some food nearby to motivate the elephant to move to a more advantageous location for all concerned.” (Full story on p. 4.) Creating such unanticipated but functional solutions is what Society’s Breakthrough is all about.

The key is the use of “dynamic facilitation” with “wisdom councils” brought together to discuss issues important to the council members. This method of group facilitation is designed to draw out breakthrough ideas and generate solutions that can be given unanimous support by the group. Rough provides the principles of dynamic facilitation (p. 85+) and follows them up with the features of a wisdom council (p. 96+). These are mixed liberally with case studies about their actual use and results.

Woven through the book are a variety of models useful to understanding organizational behavior and society at large. These models expose “the game” and how it supports “the tragedy of the commons” (p. 58+), which in turn is a complicating factor to many of society’s deepest problems.

Because these problems tend to be gut-wrenching, emotionally-laden issues, solutions are politicized, and true resolution is not reached as feelings polarize around traditional (unworkable) options. Rough proposes wisdom councils as a way to use these strongly held feelings as a springboard to discovering new perspectives and new choices.

“Choice-creating is a nonjudgmental, heartfelt, energy-driven, creative thinking process in which people seek to invent new options that work for everyone. Instead of negotiating agreement on particular points or discussing ideas back and forth, people seek breakthroughs that everyone can fully support. These breakthroughs come in two forms—changes of mind and changes of heart.” (p. 233)

Whether or not you believe that this approach could be beneficial for the United States as a nation, the case studies show how useful it can be for teams and organizations. The result is a book that will interest all who serve as team facilitators, change agents, and those tasked with finding solutions to difficult problems. It provides a new way of thinking about and attacking problems and issues. There is enough detail included to allow the reader to try dynamic facilitation and wisdom councils in his or her own organization. Those who wish to serve as a dynamic facilitator, however, will also want to review the accompanying interview with Rough in this issue of News for a Change. In that interview, he provides insight on many of the key concepts in his book and also identifies several Internet sites that have additional resources.

The only major weakness of the book lies in its lack of an index. This makes it a challenge to use the book for reference after the initial reading. I ended up taking more than my usual quantity of notes as I read and used them to create my own index of special topics.

All in all, this is a book well worth getting, reading, and rereading.

CHRISTINE ROBINSON has more than 25 years of leadership experience in quality systems for the process industries. She has a master’s degree in quality, values, and leadership from Marian College. An avid reader, she spends a significant amount of her time with her nose in books and her body at the library.

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