How many times have you read that in a comment to post in the bloggernacle?  Much to your surprise, that is the one thing that is probably right. That is what I learned from studying facilitation.

I owe you some explanation of why that is, don’t I?  I’ll start with what facilitation is — facilitation is a method of resolving complex problems by reaching group acceptance by community problem solving and investigation. It is a developed discipline and a part of one of my two serious hobbies.  (Serious = one where I’ve been paid to teach post graduate classes or seminars and have published in the area and am still interested in it.  My two serious hobbies are dispute resolution and ethics).  As a part of engaging in complexity studies, I ended up being asked to review software that helps make facilitation initiatives easier by replacing the whiteboards, large pads of paper and chalkboards with computer screens.

While the software was interesting (and probably doomed, the field just isn’t large enough to support a major vendor and software package) what was important was the case studies.  Now usually good case studies with the details I am interested in don’t end up printed.  First, the process of rounds and rounds of discussion and analysis, all with temporary media that are often consumed in the process does not lend itself to good records.  Second, the process is generally confidential as to outsiders.  Third, an important part of facilitation is the new ground taking the place of the old ground, which means replacing the past with the agreed future.

But these studies included the raw data as organizations and groups came together and worked through to successful solutions — including all the proposals, all the discussions and how they moved along.  They were really more case records than case studies.

There was one thing every case record collection had in common.  No successful final solution was ever proposed in the first round of the initiative. No party ever had as a starting position the correct answer, so to speak.  The one thing I could be certain of in any complex situation was that all of the parties and all of the initial solutions were wrong.  That was amazing to me, and not something that you would glean from the abstract case studies that are out there.

As a result, any time I view a complex problem I am able to start with the conclusion that the only thing I am certain of is that all of the proposed solutions are probably wrong.  In case you are wondering, that obviously includes my initial impressions and my solutions that I am thinking of as well. Which is why I’m not so certain about any of the issues in the bloggernacle such as ordaining women, various marriage rights, undocumented workers and a plethora of other things.

What issues do you think you have solutions for, and on which of them, which are the ones where you think you might be wrong?