Shifting Gears in Public Engagement

I work with groups to unlock their potential for producing dynamic, creative responses to their problems. This often involves “shifting gears” --a metaphor for transitioning from one set of roles and goals to a new set. One type of shifting gears that is often helpful is to move a group out of “adversarial mode” into “group problem solving.”

Some of the latest psychological research* suggests that humans have an innate ability to join together and solve problems in teams. That same research, however, points out that one of the most important functions of a team is to defend itself against other teams. Think of high school cliques, rival gangs, or political factions. As social animals we are incredibly sensitive to who is “in” our group and who is “out.”

When I facilitate a room of people split into adversarial groups I create opportunities for individuals to connect across their differences and create a single group. This “shifting of gears” paves the way for groups to move from seeing one another as “adversaries” to “problem-solving team-mates.”

*Haidt, Jonathan (2012). *The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion*. Pantheon ISBN 978-0-307-37790-6