Musings on decisions and factors that drive them.
Reaching Agreement without Homogenization
Mon, Nov 16 2009 12:01
Growing up in a highly rural area of a territory of the U.S., I'm old enough to remember when homogenization and pasteurization of milk were introduced at our local dairy. Somehow we were led to believe that both processes made milk "better" for us. I didn't realize for many years, that while pasteurization was the health-related process, homogenization was a cosmetic food "make over." We fervently believed in "Grade A Homogenized." We falsely assumed that both processes were irrevocably intertwined in producing the final "acceptable" product.
Over time, the word "homogenization" has come to evoke conformity, being insipid and mediocre, and with the overall "bland-ing" of America. Ironically, in a nation in which individualism is touted as a hallmark, we have slowly become populated with uniform strip malls dotted with fast food chains and "big box" franchises. One can move 3,000 miles and feel one is still in Anywhere, U.S.A. This surface conformity cannot disguise significant underlying differences of opinions. For many, the sense of a loss of individuality and the need to reaffirm it can surface at any time.
In our work supporting decision-making, we often see the combination of a strong desire to maintain separateness as an expression of individuality even when a group has acknowledged the need to reach agreement. Often voiced is a fear that a decision will become "homogenized." Fear that the result will be a bland choice, because the decision was made while "trying to satisfy everybody."
It is possible to find common ground, or reach agreement at a higher level, while at the same time seeking out and being respectful of differences. Differences between us should not be masked, but unveiled. Whether the subject is health care, going to war, choosing financial institutions to support or not, our differences when voiced are critical to finding better answers to our problems. Our individual thoughts, when weighed and accounted for in terms of what is important to each of us, will surface more robust solutions than those developed from just one perspective.
A decision reached through consensus is not one that is homogenized. A team of mature individuals soon recognizes that one should not strive to achieve individualism through stubborn, singular, inflexible disagreement, a sort of one-dimensional thinking. Each voice, as one facet in an approach, contributes by helping produce a multi-dimensional solution.