Deep Democracy

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

Expertise has expanded and become so specialized, that people from different professions or educational backgrounds are having increased difficulty communicating, let alone innovating together.

Most new knowledge today is created in “the spaces in between,” or in multi-disciplinary groups. Especially when organisational structures tend to align with functions or professions, there is risk that new knowledge can’t be created, or that new ideas don’t get to take hold. We need ways to bridge these gaps, uncover ideas, and provide a home in which to hone ideas into innovation and results.

In some cases, expertise lies in unexpected places, and we need ways to find it.

If you agree that teams can be seen as systems, then you can see why we need ‘deep democracy’. We need every voice on the team to be heard because each part of a system offers correct but limited solutions. Critical ‘know-how’ is often embedded in social networks within organisations.

The knowledge that would help discuss most issues can be both wide-ranging and specialized, simultaneously.

We might assume that there is ‘neutral’ knowledge on a topic, and that the experts’ job is to present this to us. But knowledge is not some ‘black box’ that you either do, or do not have. Expertise is narrowing and deepening, so there is rarely just one expert to consult; more like a plethora of them, and they often disagree with one another!

One could argue that all knowledge is ‘situated knowledge’ now, depending on the perspective of the beholder. When working with a team, the ‘situated knowledge’ for that group is a combination of everyone’s voices. ORSC* calls it the 2% rule, that “everyone is right, but only partially”.

We need ways to facilitate the conversations between experts that help uncover tacit knowledge and lead to the most responsible, complete, and innovative outcomes. We need space where different knowledge and expertise can be combined and translated into action. We need to stitch together the silos.

 *ORSC is the Organisation and Relationships Systems Coaching offered by CRR Global

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