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Quaker Conversation

The collaboratory

It’s very easy for the dynamics of a group to undermine the potential value of bringing a group of people together. If the same people speak every time, there is always a contingent whose voices are not heard; in creative work, a perspective lost can mean valuable ideas are never heard and “group think” can set in. Getting the greatest diversity of ideas from a group can depend on making the space for as many viewpoints up front before the flow of conversation begins its process of natural selection, and conversation is a funny thing; setting a few rules can disrupt the habitual dynamic of the group to allow for different outcomes.

OBJECT of the GAME: To give all voices a chance to be represented in a group with a potentially wide range of perspectives.

HOW to PLAY:

The rules of the game are quite simple…

  1. Begin by posing a question to the group
  2. Each person answers the question in sequence – usually going around the circle, but if someone is not ready, they can defer their turn until later.
  3. Each person answers as fully as they need to in order to feel they’ve fully expressed their point of view.
  4. No one should respond to, rebut or rejoin the comments of others; each response should be only to the original question

Point number four can be a difficult one for many groups, but if gently enforced, it can really encourage the less vocal members of any group to voice their opinions. This can lead quite well into a follow-on conversation if someone has been recording some of the ideas or perspectives on a whiteboard. Using these elements as launching points allows for a more focused drill down on the ideas that may have resonated with the group.

One thought on “Quaker Conversation

  1. I just want to caution people on this game. As an active Quaker I am critical of my religion’s over application of this process to every decision. It typically results in half-baked decisions and can result in people having the irrational expectation that their voice automatically contributes something of value. There needs to be some very careful expectation setting at the outset that while each voice deserves to be heard, not all ideas carry have the same merit. Now to be fair, my fellow Quakers are typically mystics and believe in a deep and direct personal relationship with a higher power so they also bring a belief that their ideas are divinely inspired, which may not be the case with the group you hope to apply this game to.

    This particular game should never be done in isolation and should be used more as a fire-starter than a stand alone activity.

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