By: Stella Orange
Whilst on Summer Holiday last month, the Philosopher and I popped into a used bookstore in Ithaca, New York.
You know when you wander around a bookshop surfing titles and a book jumps into your hands and is all, “Read me next!” and you can’t say no?
And before my thinking brain knew what had hit it, I’d bought and paid for a book about making decisions by consensus.
If you had asked me why, I would not have had the words to tell you.
I just knew I needed to read it.
- There is a difference between making decisions by voting and making decisions by consensus. Voting is about winning. Consensus is about creating conditions for everyone to participate in making decisions for everyone.
- Few of us have been brought up to know how to make decisions by consensus. Most of us have been conditioned by the win-lose, winner-take-all, and majority-rule systems of our society and mainstream culture.
- My note in the margin here: This has impacted our perception of how the world works and our capacity to imagine new worlds
- In consensus, a proposal is put forth and there is a structure for group members to surface concerns. There is a process for working through those concerns. There is a shared understanding that doing so makes the proposal stronger.
- You don’t need to agree to be a part of a consensus. After you have aired your concerns, you may choose to “step aside” and be a part of the consensus, even if you don’t agree with it.
In order to create the conditions for consensus, we must believe that being in relationship with other people is valuable.
We must believe that being in cahoots with other people makes us greater than the sum of our individual parts.
We must believe that the valorization of the individual – the mythology of the lone wolf and of the hero, swashbuckling alone – has limited what’s possible in convincing us we need to “go it alone.”
Yeah, we are individuals.
But what if we are also aspen trees? Or colonies of mushrooms? Or mother trees? Or rhizomal networks?
Here, the former student of political science and alternative public high school teacher that I used to be begins to stir as if from a long and deep sleep. Not unlike a dragon in her lair.
But that’s a story for another day.
Point being, we can’t control many things in this life. But one of the things that we can control is the conceptual frame through which we view reality, and the values we express through our work in the world.
The cool thing about what I’m reading in this book is that many of the ideas echo how we work in cahoots with people here at Las Peregrinas. Everyone has a voice. There is space and time to speak what’s yours to say, and have it be heard and considered by the rest of us.
And our team, like the clients we serve, share the belief that we make stronger decisions when we allow other people’s experiences, areas of expertise, and insights to expand and augment our own.
Real talk? I’m coming out of two decades of having drunk the punch that I am a rugged self-reliant individualist lone wolf, who is responsible for no one but myself (plus whatever dependents and joint filings may be included on my tax return).
So let’s be clear: I’m on the growing edge here myself.
But I am tickled to report that my experiments in mutual interdependence are growing healthy and exotic fruits that would never have bloomed, had I decided to keep tending garden by myself.
And that, as they say, has made all the difference.
Stella is cofounder and copywriter at Las Peregrinas, a creative and consulting agency. As our resident word nerd, she writes copy and points out the stories everyone is living and telling through their work. She is also fun at parties.
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