Dick Lyles: Stepping out of the echo chamber
By Dick Lyles
To improve an organization’s effectiveness, many leaders introduce decision making through consensus. If used properly, consensus seeking can be a powerful tool because it allows for different kinds of knowledge, expertise, and information to be incorporated into the decisions that might otherwise be overlooked or ignored. If used improperly, however, decision-by-consensus can wreak havoc, ruin the corporate culture and lead to disastrous outcomes.
Of the many rules that lead to effectiveness in consensus seeking, the most important is to always strive to find the answer that best solves the problem or meets the needs of the decision as opposed to arguing or fighting to have one’s own answer prevail over all others.
In their wisdom, the Founding Fathers formed our federal government so it would operate primarily on a foundation of consensus seeking. In many respects that is what representative democracy is all about — two legislative branches, three branches of government overall with different lengths of terms.
The problem today, however, is that we’re not doing it well. Beyond the pervasive incompetence that permeates Washington, the next most significant contributing factor is that everyone is fighting to have it “their way” in the most absolute of terms. But why is that?
The reason most people operating in the public arena are content to immerse themselves in their own point of view, polarize around issues, and foolishly fight to prevail at any cost, is that we have created “echo chambers.” Throughout history, we’ve always had cliques, social groups or clubs through which people could affiliate with and share common views and in the process reinforce each other’s thinking. However, the Internet has supercharged this process.
Although the Internet has democratized knowledge, making it available to anyone, anytime, anywhere, it has also allowed everyone to isolate themselves from certain points of view, spread false or erroneous information, and provide false comfort to people, giving the impression that many wrong (or wrong-headed) points of view are actually valid even though they are not.
But that’s not all that happens in these echo chambers. Unfortunately, they also demonize almost everyone who holds a different point of view. If different points of view reflect a basic difference in values, the demonization goes to extremes, often going beyond name calling and personal insults to hate mongering and personal threats. Rarely does anyone in one of these forums listen to the opinions, ideas or suggestions of people residing at other points on the political continuum. It many cases, even calling them forums gives them status they don’t deserve.
Our culture needs places to go where people can debate ideas, talk about solutions to societal problems and develop meaningful aspirations for the future that are responsible, respectful and dignified.
Amy and I have discussed this idea and decided to try to commence such an effort within these pages. Our current format is to write independent columns one time and then do point/counterpoint columns the next. We’ll still do our independent columns, but when the time comes to do joint columns we’re going to introduce what we’re going to call “common ground” columns. This is the first of those.
We both agree that polarization doesn’t work in public just as it doesn’t work in organizations. So we’re going to find ways to bring our different perspectives to issues about which we’re both concerned in an effort to stimulate conversation that will engage everyone in trying to achieve consensus around solutions we derive together. Please join us in this endeavor.
Lyles, a Poway resident, is an author and film producer. Reader comments may be posted at www.pomeradonews.com.
Short URL: http://www.pomeradonews.com/?p=27624