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De Bono's Algorithms of Thought for Handling Disagreements


In today's short post I will explore thinking tools developed by Edward De Bono targeted at better understanding the other person involved in a disagreement or negotiation situation. De Bono argues that Western civilization is built on the concept of conflict where two sides if they have a difference in opinion fight it out. In the end one side typically wins, the other side loses. De Bono calls the Western approach the "Clash System". 

As an alternative De Bono recommends an approach that seeks to "lead out" or "pull out" of the situation what is of value - no matter on which slide it is to be found. He argues that this is more then compromise or consensus. Compromise is still within the clash system and suggests that both sides give up something in order to gain something. Consensus means staying in the part of a proposal on which everyone is agreed on. He offers the idea of "osmosis" where there are no opposing or varying ideas to begin with, but there is joint listening and joint exploration. It is only later that ideas start to emerge.

While "osmosis" may seem overly idealistic, applying the tools below will provide the basis for a constructive design where the parties understand each other's circumstances and perceptions and work to achieve a common solution based on this knowledge. Negotiation according to De Bono can be seen as a specialized form of constructive design. An important part of negotiation is what might be called "variable value". 

A school example of "variable value" is the negotiation situation in which two companies are bidding for the same oranges at an orchard. If the negotiating parties disregard the simple tools introduced below they will likely not find out that one of them really only wants the pulp to make juice, while the other only the peel to produce garnish.

In this post I am going to be referencing other De Bono algorithms such as APC, PMI, OPV. These I have covered in my previous post De Bono's Algorithms of Thought  for Lateral Thinking and Creativity Part 1. If you are unfamiliar with APC (Alternatives, Possibilities, Choices), PMI (Plus, Minus, Interesting) and OPV (Other People's Views) I suggest you read that post as well. This article is based on De Bonos Thinking Course.

EBS - Examine Both Sides

This is an extremely simple yet very difficult attention-directing exercise. Objective is to develop an accurate and constructive map of the other point of view. It is not about trying to find the weakness in the opponent's argument, but about exploratory examination. What really is the other point of view - not just as it is expressed in an argument form? You are examining the other point of view with a constructive purpose maintaining neutrality and objectivity. 

ADI - Agreement, Disagreement and Irrelevance

With EBS you develop the map. With ADI you compare the two maps: yours and the other person's. Similar to other attention-directing algorithms such az APC or PMI you should assess the situation directing your attention in each direction one at a time. This is not about listing observations and categorizing them into boxes labelled "Agreement", "Disagreement" and "Irrelevance". First direct your attention at the Agreements and list your observations (for now disregard and Disagreement or Irrelevances that come to mind). Next repeat the same for Disagreements, and finally list areas of Irrelevance. 

It often turns out that following an objective mapping exercise with EBS, ADI shows only minor areas of disagreement. At this point both parties should be able to point at the area of disagreement and clarify what they are really in disagreement about. ADI can be done separately by both parties or it can be done as a cooperative effort. Even if one of the parties is not willing to participate, there is nothing stoping the other party from doing the exercise and presenting the results to the party that wasn't willing.

Roam #42SmartBlock

Interactive template you can copy to your database in case you are using   Roam for note-taking. The templates are based on SmartBlocks available in Roam42.

Download the Roam.JSON with all the De Bono SmartBlocks.

"Logic bubbles"

If someone does not agree with you or does not do what you think he ought to do there are several possible attitudes. He is stupid. He is bloody-minded. He is obstinate. There is, however, an alternative attitude: he is highly intelligent and acting intelligently within his own logic-bubble - the bubble of perception within which a person is acting. The logic-bubble includes both the actual circumstances surrounding a person and also his "perception" of the situation.

In any situation it is useful to map out the logic-bubbles of the other people involved. This can be achieved using the OPV algorithm.

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