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Re: [ba-unrev-talk] Connecting the Dots...

At 02:20 PM 03/07/2003 -0800, John Sechrest wrote:
But... As for this aurgument/discussion, I am looking for the
tool that brings illumination, so that you see my point of view
clearer and I see yours clearer and we end up coming to a
resolution of the difference.

That is the augument put forth about OHS systems. That they will
help us understand deeper...

Lets work it out by hand.

So we have this list of auguments and positions. Which is
nessesarily incomplete.

Is it true to understand, that I have to explore to the tiniest detail
the whole thing?

Is there an alternative format that provides for better understanding?

It is clear that the act of summarizing what has been said is important.
We have lost several bits of the argument into the email pile.

What transformation of this pile of bits can we make that will
increase understanding.

It is not clear to me that voting on nodes helps (yet)

It would help if there was a way to catagorize auguments.
It would help if there was a way to visually see the relationship
of arguments.

I hope jacks wiki comes up soon. Perhaps that will help us.

I wasn't able to jump in during this discussion, but I found it intriguing and important.  Both because the topic demands more informed public debate, and because of the context of this group in seeking tools to support that kind of debate.  Lots of great points got made, and slew of great questions.  I'd like to weigh in with a few observations on the process/tool part:

1. The issue is wicked, meaning that there's not even general agreement about what the core issue is.  ("Should we attack Iraq?" is the common surface form, but once you get through "yes" and "no" your're into the instrumental questions like "How to fight terrorism?",  "How to manage proliferation of WMD?", "How to support and obey international law?" etc.)  Since the problem is wicked there's unlikely to be any satisfying answer or solution (or "resolution of the difference") that emerges from such dialogues; but we can aim for more/better shared understanding ( John's "illumination").

2. It was gratifying to see the group attempt to work with IBIS.  My impression is that there was a lot of energy for the discussion until the (virtual) IBIS diagram reached a certain size/complexity, at which point the structure was too complex, there were too many issues, too many loose threads, etc. for the group to maintain the energy and pace of the dialog.  I'm sure we've all seen this happen over and over.  The threaded discussion dies not because of any closure that is reached but by being crushed under the accumulated weight of fragmented threads.  My feeling and experience is that this phenomenon may be addressable by:

  a. Conducting the discussion in a graphical IBIS diagram tool that allows the whole group to see the whole diagram as it unfolds.

  b. Mechanisms for a moderator (i.e. facilitator) to review each new submission to the conversation, and either accept it, reject it, or negotiate changes to it with the submitter.

Dialog Mapping does these things for face-to-face groups, but the dynamics are so different with asynchronous discussions.  There are many mysteries.

3.  I've been facilitating IBIS discussions for almost 20 years now.  I think it's an extremely powerful (and yet simple) structure for design and problem solving discussions.  But I've also found that effective use requires literacy.  IBIS is a grammar, with structural rules ... violate the rules and the elegant structure falls apart quickly.  I've seen so many IBIS discussions ground to a halt because someone made a move like putting several questions in a question node, or an idea and its supporting argument in one node, etc.  (For some common errors, see The IBIS Manual ... http://www.touchstone.com/tr/wp/IBIS.html )  So I've concluded that, rather than expect everyone in the discussion to be IBIS-literate, you need an IBIS-literate moderator/facilitator ... and the "power tools" that support their role.

4.  I think it is misguided (and perhaps dangerous) to think that such complex issues are served by quantitative schemes, such as putting weights on arguments or voting.  They distract from careful argumentation with the siren call of resolution through arithmetic.  You can't really resolve a wicked issue that way, but you can weaken or distract from shared understanding and clear case making.  Just my gut feeling ...

I look forward to the day when we have a robust web-based graphical IBIS tool to experiment with so we can start to refine just how it is that an asynchronous/distributed group can create illumination.


Dr. Jeff Conklin             <mailto:jeff@cognexus.org>
CogNexus Institute ... Collaborative Display, Collective Intelligence
http://cognexus.org          Phone: 410-798-4495  Fax: 410-798-0806
304 Arbutus Dr., Edgewater, MD 21037    USA