rulesapplyThis is part six in a series of posts about The Ideal Problem Solving Tool. In the previous issue we shared with you a few testimonials and in return I’ve gotten another bunch of questions about the rules and decided to share a few thoughts about them.

The Rules of the Circle should not be administered as a set of axioms. We recommend (at least at the initial stage, when introducing the rules) presenting the rules on posters or slides and then pick up one rule at a time to discuss in the Circle with all participants; why is it important to observe this rule? Gradually, participants will internalize the significance of these rules and the nature of the environment, which we are trying to create. Occasionally participants may come up with a few contradictions or additions of their own but, in general, the rules are accepted as is.

The facilitators should carefully and unobtrusively monitor observance of the rules, reminding participants of certain principles when necessary. Practice shows that the participants quickly adopt the rules and start reminding each other of them. The facilitator’s major role is to help maintain equality in the Circle, gradually reducing the level of external activity and transferring it to the internal level, i.e. controlling the process internally and connecting participants mentally.

The rules of the Circle are extremely important. Without them we can neither build the desired atmosphere nor reveal that it is the collective mind that leads to the success of the Circle.

At the same time, regulations, which are too strict, can contradict the principles of the Circle. The rules are not the goal. We need them for creating and supporting a special atmosphere we are trying to build. The expertise and skillfulness of the facilitators lies in their ability to strike a balance between adhering to the Circle rules and respecting participants’ personal qualities.

For example, Circle discussions should welcome diversity of participants whose opinions are based solely on their own knowledge and experience. In other words, conformity and conciliation are not desirable, as they do not add anything to the collective pool.

“An intelligent group, especially when confronted with cognition problems, does not ask its members to modify their positions in order to let the group reach a decision everyone can be happy with. Instead, it figures out how to use mechanisms—like market prices, or intelligent voting systems— to aggregate and produce collective judgments that represent not what any one person in the group thinks but rather, in some sense, what they all think. Paradoxically, the best way for a group to be smart is for each person in it to think and act as independently as possible.”

– James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowd: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations