FORGOT YOUR DETAILS?

Image: Nadine Shaabana, Unsplash
After thirty minutes of discussion, it looks like we finally have an answer. The facilitator calls for a vote: “Who agrees that we should do X?” Everyone raises their hands except two people. Many groups would call this success and move forward. But the facilitator does something unexpected. She expresses her sympathy to the dissenters that the vote didn’t go their way. Then she asks a powerful question: What do you need to come along?
The resulting conversation is fascinating and valuable. One dissenter points out that her team is completely overwhelmed with work. She would be willing to go along with the decision if the deadline was extended by two weeks. It’s a good thing she spoke up; if not, her group would have missed the deadline or sacrificed another priority project to deliver on time.
The second dissenter has a completely different request. To go along, he said, he needs the group to verify some data that is being used to make the decision. He suspects that the data isn’t sound and worries that the group is basing their decision on false premises. After listening to the dissenter’s explanation, people agree: they must investigate before proceeding. If the facilitator hadn’t checked in, the group never would have taken this step or heard wisdom of his insight, wisdom that could make the difference between success and failure.
Deep Democracy
Finding the “wisdom in the no” is one of the gifts of Deep Democracy, a method of working with groups. The Lewis Method of Deep Democracy was developed by Myrna and Greg Lewis, psychologists who were asked in the late 1990s to help a large South African company work through the legacy of apartheid. They developed the Lewis Method, which they taught to over one thousand people in three years. Today, Myrna continues to teach, practice, and spread the Deep Democracy methodology around the globe. (Greg passed away several years ago.)
One of the strengths of the Lewis Method of Deep Democracy (LMDD) is that it welcomes differences in opinion, perspective, and style. It doesn’t require conformation; people can express themselves in ways that feel most authentic to them. It provides structured, focused methods for helping people hear the messages in the communication, regardless of the method of delivery and explore differences in ways that are productive and respectful.
Working across differences might just be one of the most important skills humans can learn in our intensely connected, globalized world. People working on cross-functional, cross-country, and cross-language teams naturally have different ways of seeing the work at hand. The ability to navigate differences effectively can lead to success if done well, or failure if done poorly.
Managing “Resistors”
Image: Mark Schafer, Unsplash
It can be tempting to gloss over differences in opinion and write off those who express unpopular views. In the framework of Deep Democracy, those “resistors” often represent something that the group can’t see or acknowledge. Says Rick Maurer, expert on organizational change and resistance, there aren’t “resistors out there just waiting to ruin our otherwise perfect intervention. People resist in response to something. Something that we… are doing evokes a reaction that we call resistance.”
Perhaps it’s unpopular to talk about being overworked in the organization; the culture supports burnout. That means that when Dissenter #1 talks about her concerns about her team missing a deadline, she raises an issue that was previously repressed. It can be deeply uncomfortable for others in the meeting; they’ve made a tacit agreement not to discuss such things. However, if the group can negotiate the conversation effectively, they strengthen the whole system by allowing people to talk openly about potential risks to the project timeline.
By ignoring, silencing, or glossing over divergent perspectives, we lose out on very real, important information. Rather than risking these losses, LMDD embraces the “no.” It seeks out divergent opinions and welcomes them. It doesn’t get mired in gridlock; decisions are still made and action taken. But those decisions and actions are stronger for embracing the no.
My Journey with Deep Democracy
I discovered LMDD about a year ago. I ended up in a Deep Democracy Level 1 workshop not really knowing what to expect. I left feeling like I had discovered something rare, precious, and important. Since that first class, I’ve become a fan, proceeding through Level 2 and Level 3 workshops and helping the leaders of Deep Democracy in North America develop the LMDD community.
The method is a gift. I relied on it to navigate a conflictual, emotional discussion between executives about the future of their company. In another circumstance, I found that it helped people work through an intense conversation about structural inequalities. And I’ve used it to help coach leaders through challenging dilemmas.

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AP Photo/Denis Farrell, File

South Africa National Parks has issued a tender to sell as many as 200 rhinos to private buyers so that they can be moved to areas where they are safer from poachers who last year killed a record number of the animals.

“A tender process has been put out,” Gerry Swan, a SANParks board member and chairman of its conservation and tourism committee, said in a telephone interview today. The possible destinations of the rhinos are being evaluated and the “movement of rhino will start in March,” he said.

In a bid to protect the species, the South African government has deployed the military in its biggest conservation area, Kruger National Park, has stepped up prosecutions of poachers and has moved 50 rhinos to safer areas within Kruger and other national parks. Israel-sized Kruger borders Mozambique, providing an opportunity for many poachers to enter the park from that country.

The rhino are hunted with automatic rifles, often by the light of the full moon, their horns sawn off and sold to buyers in China and Vietnam where powdered horn is believed to cure cancer among other ailments.

AP Photo/Denis Farrell, FileFILE – In this Friday, Jan. 18, 2013 file photo a mural painted on a suburban wall in Johannesburg, South Africa calls for the halt to rhino poaching in a bid to save the species from extinction due to killings for the rhinos horn. A U.S. firm recently gave smart phones to some game rangers in South Africa to help them track poachers who kill rhinos for their horns. The rate of poaching in South Africa _ home to most of Africa’s rhinos _ in 2013, is on track to exceed the record number of illegal kills in 2012, conservation officials say.

An annual record of 1,020 rhinos, or about 5 percent of the total population, had been killed in 2014 by Nov. 20, the Department of Environmental Affairs said in a statement. Final figures for last year haven’t been released. A total of 1,004 were slaughtered in 2013.

A company associated with billionaire Christoffel Wiese was among buyers refunded 14 million rand ($1.2 million) in deposits last year after a contract to buy the animals from SANParks was found to be unauthorized.

Wiese is worth $6.1 billion and is South Africa’s fourth- richest man, according to Bloomberg Billionaires. He owns a reserve in South Africa’s remote Northern Cape province.

South Africa is home to both white and black rhinos, with the bigger white variety making up most of the population.

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