Who has never known repeated meetings where discussions turn around on the same subject with a sensation to lose one’s time? Almost everybody.

One of the explanations for this phenomenon is often the way people enter discussions: by rushing directly into the substance of the subject, conversations are quickly drowned in detail, and the essential is gradually lost sight of.

Meetings tend so to drag on due to a lack of detachment, requiring sometimes to call on the hierarchy to end the debates.

So, how to discuss constructively around the table?


• Highlight the purpose of the project

Paradoxically, it is by getting beyond the substance of the subject to reflect on another level that it is then possible to find a consensus on the substance.

That level is that of meaning. Depending on the case, it can be a project, a service, the organization, a team, etc. It is possible to make it emerge around questions such as:

– What are the stakes of this project?
– Why are we doing this project?
– What are we doing it for?
– What’s its purpose?

For example, if a group has difficulty choosing words to describe a business activity or service, the answers to these questions may facilitate the exercise by narrowing the range of possibilities in selecting words to choose only those consistent with the meaning that has emerged.

By creating a shared vision around the deep purpose of a project, for example, conversations get more structured as a clearer axis of discussion has been defined.


• Changing the logic of reasoning

Often, the logic underlying the discussions is the logic of “EITHER/OR”; each considering that he is right and the other wrong (and vice versa). The arguments appear to be mutually exclusive, as opposed to each other. This is typical of discussions that go around in circles and end in a dead end.

Sometimes, to get out of it, we just have to ask ourselves to what extent the proposals around the table could be complementary or combined together. That is the logic of “BOTH/AND”. “Can we do this and that at the same time? ». Even though it sounds simple, few people have the reflex to think that way.

If a choice has to be made between several proposals, it is appropriate to move on to the “AS/FOR” logic. The objective is to assess proposals with regard to the purpose of the project to check the overall coherence. Once this point has been verified, other criteria can refine the thinking and decision process, of course.



Changing the level of thinking and the reasoning logic is a way out of endless discussions.

The linkage and perspective of the proposals made with the project as a whole, transform the dynamics of discussions to create a collective reasoning logic. From then on, the field of creative thoughts widens to glimpse a greater number of alternatives, answers and solutions.

Magali Genieys
© 2018 Alcheemiz

(To go further: « L’intelligence collective en action » by Vincent Lenhardt and Philippe Bernard, Pearson editions; and « Manager dans (et avec) la complexité » by Dominique Genelot, Eyrolles editions)

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