Saturday, September 7, 2013

Cooperative Commuting

As a consensus facilitator, one of my core challenges is establishing a suitably cooperative container in which to examine issues. Regardless of whether a group has committed to using a cooperative decision-making process such as consensus, you cannot count on the group having been trained in its use, or understanding the need to unlearn competitive conditioning.

Ma'ikwe and I are in Floyd VA this weekend delivering Weekend III of our NC-based Integrative Facilitation training, hosted by Jubilee, a forming cohousing group. The teaching theme is consensus, and we made a strong effort to emphasize the importance of having the right mind set if you want good results. Simply exporting adversarial dynamics into consensus meetings does not lead to happiness.

During our Thursday evening check-in one creative trainee shared how he experimented with a cooperative attitude while driving north from Florida. Thinking that our admonitions might have utility beyond plenaries (for which he got extra credit) he wondered what it might be like to drive cooperatively, which was a fairly radical concept. When someone was riding his bumper at 70 mph, he tried the novel idea of imagining what he might do to make life easier for the impatient driver behind him and pulled into the right-hand lane to let him pass. We could only imagine the surprised look on that driver's face.

I was captivated by the thought of introducing cooperative behavior into arenas where it is seldom seen, such as rush hour commuting, which seemed as far removed from collaborative culture as Marine Corps boot camp (picture the drill instructor inquiring how you're getting along with that hang nail).

It reminded me of the bumper sticker that encourages random acts of kindness. Maybe I could get one printed that advocated for "stealth cooperation." It may not make a lot of sense, but it could be a lot of fun—and wouldn't that be better than road rage? At least it would keep your blood pressure down.

While I'm not sure where our students will take this, it was enjoyable thinking of unlikely applications: letting people cut in front of you when queued up to buy tickets; giving up the final shirt in your size at a clothing sale so that the person behind you could have it; foregoing the last piece of pie so that someone else night enjoy it.

Imagine a world where cooperation became endemic. How bad could it be? I hope to get the chance to find out.

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