How YOU Can Immediately Reform and
Recivilize the American Political Process

--Should you wish to. And even if you don't, you have here completely free of political concern you have from this mailing a simple, powerful way to run better meetings - whether business meetings, classes, Sunday school, scouts, faculty, staff or whatever!

Picture, if you will, a political rally in progress, the candidate doing little but lambaste the other candidate in the manner now all too familiar. All of a sudden, here, there, across the audience, people are rising and doing something so unexpected, so unusual, everyone including the candidate stops to stare. Maybe 50 people from the audience, some wearing the buttons and hats which support that very candidate, elaborately and in apparent good humor pantomiming driving a stake into the ground.

When questioned, the candidate him/herself likely asking what was THAT, the various stakedrivers replying something to the effect that we support your candidacy, but we'd much rather hear more about what you stand for and less about what's wrong with the other guy's position! There are more and more of us wanting to hear what's right with YOUR case, and equipped to remind you of that with this gesture.

As you look this over, I think you will agree that if this catches on anywhere, it is then bound to catch on everywhere. Thus America's entire political process will reform and recivilize, and start giving us better out-comes, without anyone passing laws or regulations, without government intervention, nothing but a popularized set of gestures by means of which the intelligent members of any political audience will be able to elicit better performances from candidates and parties.

Chances are, the candidate will even ask to see a copy of "the code," asserting his or her being far more ready and willing to follow that and to make positive cases than his/her opponent. The code: extensions, for use in political situations, of Dynamic Format, which extensions follow next page. Dynamic Format itself, as you may recall or, from reading ahead, find, that--

*Dynamic Format was loosely abstracted from the best procedures used by various creativity-involved professionals and programs around the world, designed to obtain the best results from group pro-cess, as distinct from the all too-common lowest common denominator outcomes.
*Dynamic Format is a set of agreements and signals which enable a group to hold tight productive focus in a spirit of light humor, not of aversive correction, control and the usual eventual adversarial proceedings characteristic of spirited group discussions conducted conventionally.
*Dynamic Format encourages a maximum of expressive and perceptual input from every participant, through pairs, threes and "buzz-grouped" discussion guided by agreements and easily recognized signals. Some signals may come from a moderator but more often from participants themselves. The present, political-context, signals must necessarily come from participants who normally wouldn't allow in their own living rooms the behavior we see today from our political parties and candidates, and exercised in the initial ignorance of candidates of more constructive forms of group process.
*Dynamic Format signals are highly visible or otherwise easily register on the senses, so that your voice does not have to compete with other voices to provide essential guidance once everyone is talking at the same time. The most productive group processes, maximizing everyone's perception, expression and inputs, will have everyone talking at the same time, but will not be seen in political process until political candidates discover practical political advantage to in-depth involvement and questioning of their audiences and constituencies as distinct from hiring mindless pollings.

In conventional group discussions, everyone with an idea or perception to share, invests most of his attention in mentally rehearsing what he is going to say if he gets the chance, thereby diminishing the attention he can give to whomever is currently speaking. Further, waiting turns to speak in conventional group discussion drastically reduces the opportunity for one to develop his perceptions by describing them in some detail. Hence, most group discussions produce only at the level of the lowest common denominator. The more interested the participants or the more vital the issue, the more acute this problem. In contrast a mutually Socratic, well-managed "buzz" under Dynamic Format provisions normally produces ingenious or even high level genius product from the group. From business meeting to board ("bored?) meetings to classroom to faculty, staff, task force and inquiry group meetings to church-related or civic club meetings to political events, the indicated benefits to society are prodigious were Dynamic Format to replace "Robert's Rules" and other more adversarial-type procedures now in traditional or common use.

Particularly acute are the problems accompanying group discussions of any community, public or political issue where, now, to oppose a side on some issue has come to mean to try to smear and destroy the other side by any means possible. Public disgust at negative political campaigns has grown to the point where, if an alternative were clearly visible, many would grasp it including many of the candidates themselves.


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All Western democracies are based upon the Utilitarian premises of Jeremy Bentham, which related everything to the issue of how to optimize the interests and well-being of everyone caught up in the system. To so optimize interests and well-being and the process through which those interests are to be served, we propose the general adoption of some set of procedures like those of Dynamic Format. We detail the general provisions of Dynamic Format several pages following below. To correct the immediate political situation, and to begin the long evolution of our political process from its present abysmal character towards higher forms of group process, we propose adding to those general features these specific political "code features:"

The Code:

1. Ad hominem: if anyone detects an ad hominem in progress - defined as an effort to make the other side look bad by negatively portraying the advocate of the other side rather than comparing cases - he briefly raises two clenched fists, waved overhead in wide circles.

2. Downer: if anyone spots a "downer" in progress - defined as portraying the other side's case negatively without presenting a positive case of your own - as an effort to win not by making your side look better than theirs but by making their case look worse than yours - signal: One clenched fist driven downward into open palm hand of other hand, with just enough theatric style to bring laughter. More generally, any "downer" where the speaker is focused not on presenting his own case but on demeaning the opposition, either of the above ways, would be signaled by the aforementioned exaggerated pantomime of driving a stake into the ground.

Note: For best results, and to ensure a good light humor to the whole procedure so it can spread: these procedures must be expressed by supporters and apparent supporters of the candidate who is speaking. These should not be a counter-demonstration by the opposition. You might even forewarn candidate and staff that such reminders are coming "from within the family," even to providing copies of this Code so that the intent is clear from the onset.


3. Missed Win/Win - signer perceives an opportunity for positive resolution of the issue which both sides can leap aboard enthusiastically and in happy conscience - not a mere splitting-of-difference but a trade-off or ingenious outcome which is significantly better for both. Sign: two "V" signs waved broadly overhead.--

because this last can be abused, we also need:

4. Grandstanding - Someone's interjections are not apparently leading toward a positive resolution but rather toward some private hobbyhorse. Sign: two downward "V" signs waved broadly in front. Code expectation and/or agreement: interjecting participant at whom this is aimed must immediately demonstrate the positive resolution he's leading toward AND turn at least several of those downward "V's" upward, or yield the floor for at least 10 minutes. Immediately. Understanding: he does not have to turn up all or even most of those downward "V's," only some of them, which will demonstrate that he has indeed some sort of meaningful case to make.

Obviously a political discussion following such rules will be conducted in a manner, and yield results, which are very different from what has become the all-too-familiar outcome. We respectfully submit that the interests of us all will be far better served if our various corporate and political and public deliberations are con-ducted thusly. We further submit that if you and friends (and/or fellow club-members, or congregation, or staff) can make this approach catch on at one political event, it is very likely to spread and to correct the entire political process across this once-fair land of ours. (Note special terms of copyright notice, page 4 below, allowing you a way to copy this brief fairly freely.)

Additional "rules" and accompanying signs, whether for this political application or for "Dynamic Format" generally, are welcome for consideration toward subsequent attributed publication. We will, however, take care not to end up with so many rules that we lose track. Each rule must help the natural dynamics of any group to move toward, not the destruction of one side or to a win-lose confrontation, but toward the most positive resolution attainable for the given issue or context under deliberation.

MORE GENERALLY: DYNAMIC FORMAT FOR ANY GROUP

Have you ever had the experience of having something important to say but no opportunity to say it? How much did you hear of what someone else then was saying while you sat there mentally rehearsing what you would say if you got the chance? - And so for all those around you as well. To engage and focus your group's very real genius, try these general "house rules" of Dynamic Format. The object is to have everyone "buzz-group," with 1, 2 or 3 partners, so that each has opportunity to express in some depth what s/he is seeing, feeling, thinking. To keep the meeting in focus and on topic:

1.Have your buzz-grouped partners pull very close together so they can hear each other and be heard without effort even when everyone is talking.

2.To keep the topic in focus, use these next "Waterglass" signals very easily perceived even when everyone is talking at once: (Beforehand, establish these "house rules" as core agreements among your participants. Gently use waterglass, ashtray, saucer or chime with agreeable but penetrating tone:)

*THREE bings = Instant Pause in Talking. The moment you hear three "bings," pause in talking not only in mid-sentence but in mid-word so that you and others can hear the next topical question or step of instruction. Make it a game: "not to be the last one caught talking after the third 'bing.' All must be done in light humor.
*One bing = half minute's notice, before the 3-binger. One 'bing' keep on doing what you are doing but be ready a half minute later to pause on signal.
For groups larger than 100 members, this signal attributed to the Boy Scouts organization:
*Hand-Up = Instant Talk-Pause + Hand-Up. The instant you notice either the leader's hand go up or other people's hands going up, pause in your talking and get your own hand up! (On-off flicks of the room lighting can serve the same purpose.)


3.Relevancy Challenge, to keep better topical focus, quickly get back to topic: make a triangle of your thumbs and forefingers, sight at the speaker through that triangle. Agreement: on the instant, whom-ever's speaking must (a) demonstrate how his remarks relate to the topic; (b) or return to the topic; or (3) yield the floor. Instantly.

4.Record the Run-Pasts!!! Anything you notice that seems worthy of address but which the group is stampeding past: make a written note or record of it. Thereby reinforce YOUR OWN perceiving of overlooked aspects, not only that one overlooked point! Sometimes there is a chance before the end to pick some of these points back up and consider them, but the main purpose of this rule is to reinforce your own perceptiveness and integrity of view. Any time you notice someone else seething with an overrun point, point to his/her notepad or waggle pen or pencil at him or her.

Additional "rules" but for particular situations, not generally for all the time:

5.Support-First Rule, used when you want more creative production, fresh ideas and perceptions, open-ended exploration. However off-the-wall an idea or input may be, the first response to it has to be some form of meaningful, content related support. Reinforce the act of generating and contributing ideas and fresh perceptions. Win past the usual put-downs and self-censorships which stifle creativity. After that first meaningful support, then it's o.k. to carve that weird notion into corned beef hash, so long as the support came first. Any time you observe an idea getting trashed first instead of supported first, whether your own idea or someone else's, clasp your hands together over your head for a second or so, looking wistfully up at them, then go on. Note: the best ideas usually are those which were greeted first with a burst of laughter - especially turn supportive attention to these. Don't use this support-first rule where you don't want expansive creativity.

6.De-speechifying: a limit of 2-3 sentences or 1 minute per input, depending on size of group or buzz-group and nature of process. Once rule is in effect: any time you notice someone going beyond the agreed limit, lean forward with hands clasped in front of you!

Robert's Rules of Order (and, for that matter, most club meeting and classroom procedures as well), were designed to shut down communications within a group so that business can be transacted. The too-typical result leads to the tired joke about the hippo being an animal designed by committee. Dynamic Format, instead, fosters focused communications in a way which causes the business transacted to reflect the high-est considerations and actual genius of the group.

Copyright 1996 by Win Wenger, Ph.D., 301-948-1122, wwenger101@AOL.com, or Box 332, Gaithersburg, MD 20884-0332. You may, however, freely reproduce this 4 page paper - in whole, including this copyright notice, but not in part.

FREE: can an entire symposium or conference be run under these dynamic format terms? What happens when everyone - formal high-level presenters AND general participants - mutually Socratize each other? Send for free information about the Double-Festival series of Conferences held each November in the Washington, D.C. area, and in particular about Double-Festival Seven coming up this November 13-17 weekend. Query Project Renaissance, at the address given in the copyright notice just above.



©1998 by Project Renaissance (regarding this internet version only, other copyrights may apply). While we encourage the free distribution of this article (complete text only, including this notice and acknowledgement of source), we do require that expressed permission be granted by Project Renaissance for any major republication. For minor printing and sharing, we only request that you notify us.

To reach Win Wenger, please visit his website at Project Renaissance.

New information on the latest Double Festival is available here.

This version originally published on Anakin's Brain (now Genius By Design)


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©1996-2004 Matthew Turco unless otherwise noted

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