3 Tips for Generative Decision Making

It’s been 8 years since I first put the Generative Decision Making Process (GDM) into written form and shared it here. With thousands of viewers, from all the articles I wrote, this one has gathered the most interest. Way back when, it felt so important for me to have a consent based process that had life in it. Since then I (and many others) have taught it online, in person, from corporate executives to community groups. Here are three extra tips that might be helpful.

1. Start slow and easy

After you have experienced the Generative Decision Making process, you can see its potential and are eager to bring it into your organization. Don’t jump in with huge decisions! Start with some smaller ones to build up your skill. What’s a small decision? This image should help to clarify that quadrant 3 is an ideal place to start, and then you can move into quadrant 2 and 4. Really, it takes time to build culture and ease before you move into high risk and long lasting decisions with this method.

2. Facilitator and proposer are different persons

By “facilitator” I mean anyone in the group who takes on the role of hosting this GDM process. By “proposer” I mean the courageous person who speaks an idea or suggestion for the benefit of the group or organization. Within GDM the proposer CANNOT be the facilitator and vice versa, the facilitator CANNOT be the proposer. They need to be two different people. Many times, I need to say this a few times and in a few different ways for this to land with people. Maybe because we are so accustomed to the facilitator and proposer being one and the same person; so much so, we might not even notice they are the same person. Once you experience the separation of these roles, you can see how kind and helpful it is for the proposer to be hosted by the facilitator.

3. The facilitator as participant

Again, I typically need to repeat that the facilitator can participate in this process. I think it is due to our assumptions that facilitators should be “objective” and “outside the process”. For clarity: the person hosting the GDM process can also ask questions, give their reactions and if need be, even object (someone would need to step in as host for an objection though). For years, I have been saying that a group that is mature in its self-organizing ways will be able to host itself. To get there though you will need to let go of this notion of facilitators as objective outsiders (It wasn’t ever really true). Even when I come into an organization to facilitate a GDM process, I ask clarifying questions and give my reactions, because outside perspectives can be rich and healthy for wise decision making. 

Hopefully these tips support you in how you bring Generative Decision Making to your world. Revisit the original post to download a free GDM brochure (on Medium or Percolab website) to help you share this method.

This practice is part of a wider set of practices published in my book Going Horizontal: Creating a Non-hierarchical Organization, One Practice at a Time (Berrett Koehler Publishers) in which I share 7 domains of practice (all commons!) and I dig further into the realm of decision making. Discover the card game, Listen For…, that is based on the book. 

Image: Generative Decision making moment at Gustavus College, Percolab photo