The power of peer-to-peer networks

Johnnie Moore’s talking about distributed models of conversation in meetings in his recent blog A few thoughts on peer-to-peer networks in meetings. Sensible stuff that addresses the problem caused by that common belief that “we all need to hear everything“. In consensus decision-making circles that can be magnified into “we all need to decide together on everything“.

Johnnie says:

“One objection to those more informal methods comes from people who say that they can’t know everything that’s happening in the room. But I would counter that methods A and B only allow the illusion of hearing everything by throttling the amount that can actually be said by most people and forcing it to remain unspoken.”

There can be dynamics around trust, status in the group and more at play here. The bottom line seems to be equal access – plenary formats rarely, if ever, allow everyone in the room to join the conversation as equals.

In terms of decision-making, when researching our brief history of consensus post, I was grabbed by the description of the Hanseatic League’s dynamics. The League was a 13th to 17th century Northern European trading alliance. If I’ve understood it right, those cities and merchants’ guilds that wanted to discuss a trading venture simply got together and did so, and ultimately made their decision by consensus. Those that weren’t interested simply abstained from both conversation and decision. No judgment accrued to either position. Simple and refreshing.