Meetings: Win-Win or Win-Lose?

Imagine if you left a meeting thinking:

  • Wow the solution was so much simpler than I thought
  • There was so much more to that requirement than I appreciated
  • I’ve really gained respect for x, his ideas contributed to a great solution
  • I see know that my idea wasn’t perfect, together we found a solution that we all liked
  • The solution turned out to be so much more elegant than I had imagined
  • I think people really gained respect for me

This is the result of mutual learning

Unfortunately you are more likely to leave a meeting thinking:

  • I think I convinced everyone to include all the bits I want (you didn’t)
  • Why does x always try to complicate/simplify things
  • Why can’t other people just see it the way I do
  • I’m more experienced than them they should just do what I say

This is the result of defensive reasoning

Defensive reasoning is a game of win/lose. It results in compromise that can be worse than losing. Mutual learning is a game of win/win where together people create better solutions

There are many reasons we use defensive reasoning these include:

  • Fear of loosing face
  • Fear of uncertainty
  • Fear of our current learning becoming redundant

Unfortunately the most powerful and successful people feel these fears the most having rarely had to deal with failure and having had an excellant education that they feel is complete

The implications of Defensive Reasoning in a meeting are plain to see:

  •      Animosity
  •      Anxiety
  •      Rivalry

The implications of Mutual learning whilst rarely seen include:

  •      Critical thinking leading to better decision making
  •      Effective Collaboration
  •      Ability to reach a concensus
  •      Fellowship

Breaking the cycle

Obviously its not you it’s everybody else that needs to change 😉 Our reluctance to see ourselves as contributing to the problem is the reason it is such a hard cycle to break. If you have any doubt that you are a contributing factor try recording and analysing conversations or meetings with particular focus on how you reacted to challenges. Were you open to reassessing your assumptions? Were you acting rationally or emotionally? Were you balancing advocacy with enquiry?

When conflict arises we need to move back down the ladder of inference, question our own and the opposing views assumptions and data that lead to those assumptions. The best way of helping this behaviour spread is by example. There are many great resources that can help us to encourage mutual learning, check out the work of Chris Argyris and this book.

Related Posts

Discussing the Undiscussable – Notes and Quotes 

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