Look for the Alternative View, or Face the Consequences

Blog 4 of 5 on excellence in decision making. 


Making good decisions is hard, especially in these times where we are faced with so much uncertainty and distress. Lewis Deep Democracy provides a roadmap with four simple steps to guide us so that we can decide wisely. So far in this series we have considered the importance of gathering all the views, staying open and harnessing the wisdom of the unpopular views in times of crisis. This next blog expands on how we can mine the wisdom when faced with difficult decisions.



Seeking out the other view

When we sit in a meeting with various people of different views, we must understand that there will always be a few people in the room who will not agree with the majority, in other words they will be in the minority. Lewis Deep Democracy provides a method to elicit the minority voice in a safe way. Doing this has the benefit of inclusive decision making, adding the wisdom of the minority and containing resistance.


This is step 2 and in simple terms says we need look for the ‘no’ to our yes when we make decisions. This means that we seek out the other view, the alternative to what is proposed or where we are leaning. This is counter intuitive, as our natural tendency is to persuade people around us to adopt our view. At best we hope that there is no opposite view, and at worst we ignore it completely.


There are two reasons for actively seeking the alternative view, the first is to get buy-in to the final decision and the second is to gain the wisdom that the alternative view may have for making that decision stick. In order to gain buy-in and get a group to take responsibility for a decision that has been made, all the views need to be heard and shown that they are valued. To gain all the wisdom any group must be valued as a gold mine of diverse views. We should see the alternative view as an opportunity with great potential to add diversity and to allow for creative options, perhaps something that has not yet been thought of. The cost of not doing this is resistance, which if left unheeded will lead to outright rebellion.



A case in point

In our beautiful country right now, we are facing stage 4 of lockdown. One highly contentious issue at present is the decision to continue the ban on selling of cigarettes. The perception is that this decision appears to have been made based on a narrow health related perspective. Most of us do not condone smoking, however what this decision represents has caused a huge outcry, with smokers and non- smokers jumping on this band wagon.



If we consider the alternative view in this example to be opening up the sales of cigarettes (alternative to the status quo), this view appears to have not been properly considered. Not having buy-in to this decision is much bigger than just the decision, it represents trust in and support of our government. The people who hold the alternative view feel unheard and disrespected. What happens then is rebellion.



Due to our leaders not actively considering any alternatives; we have lost the wisdom residing in these views, e.g. allowing cigarette sales has both an economic and legal compliance upside.

What happens then is people feel disregarded and disrespected because their views are ignored, rebellion often follows. We can see and feel the sentiment of the South African people starting to turn. The good-will that was gained our president over the last few weeks is at risk, and could be lost.


Decision-makers who do not actively seek out and consider the other view, and clearly demonstrate that they have done so, do so at their peril.

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