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Sender: Steven H Johnson
Subject: A method in search of a question?
Date: Thu, Aug 14, 2014
Msg: 101103

Hi everyone,

In principle, I like Mark Gerzon's suggestion that those of us who want to explore individual issues in greater depth should seek volunteers to participate and work together - offline - to see where their dialogue takes them. Perhaps they'll develop some breakthru insights.

But somehow I'm not fully sold, and here's my concern. It's a concern that applies not only to Mark's suggestion, but also to some of the excellent comments of Tom Atlee as well.

We live in a time of bureaucratized organizations and industries and agencies. We also live in a time of extraordinary scale. Corporate behaviors at vast scale have consequences at vast scale - think fossil fuel consumption. Government behaviors at vast scale have consequences at vast scale - think of the federal government's screwed up business tax code.

The future we will create for ourselves depends, therefore, on our ability to size up the business models that shape our civilization. Which ones are generally beneficial? Which ones are harmful? And - for those sectors that are shaped by faulty business models - how are we to redesign them? How are we to envision new business models that become part of our well-being, rather than part of our chronic dissatisfaction?

If the art of business model redesign is the key to our better future - as I think it is - what sort of dialogue will have the best chance of finding good redesign approaches?

Will it be "transpartisan"? Will it be one of Tom Atlee's suggested models? Or any of several deliberative democracy models?

To my way of thinking, all those options miss an important part of the problem. "Business model" is shorthand for something more complicated - the behaviors of an entire Value Chain, and the consequences generated by that value chain under Business As Usual scenarios.

If we were to set for ourselves a platinum standard, what would it look like?

With respect to any particular business model and the value chain it affects, we'd want to be able to size up today's reality and recognize both its beneficial consequences and its damaging consequences. We'd also want to be able to wrestle our way forward to new scenarios for how to shape those business models, and the conduct of the value chains they govern.

We'd especially want to be able to rethink our most problematic business models.

To my mind, a platinum standard for dialogue is one that brings together participants who collectively have an end-to-end understanding of a major value chain. Such a dialogue doesn't limit itself to modest adjustments; it's willing to explore paradigm shift scenarios too. Such a dialogue will take on the scale question, with a special focus on its dangers: "Is there a redesign scenario that protects us from causing collateral damage at great scale?" A platinum dialogue presses forward till it's found one or more solid reforms to recommend.

So . . . when I think about "transpartisan dialogues" or "citizen juries" or "deliberative dialogues," I ask myself - are we ready to tune them up a bit? So that some of our dialogues, at least, will operate at a platinum level?

'Nuff for now.

Steve Johnson Steven Howard Johnson - Civic Futurist 410-562-0361 Book in Progress: Thoughtful Patriotism


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