Tips, Videos, Handouts

Public input in many ways

On site at a public input meeting, Craig describes four ways for people to give their opinions.

This video has captions. To see them, click CC on the video screen.

Here’s what Craig says in the video.

Hi everybody. Hey it’s Craig Freshley here.

I am at a meeting – the whole purpose is to gather public input. Tonight we’re in Brunswick, Maine asking people what they think the future of the town should be.

Now, when you ask people to provide information it’s really good if you can ask them to give it in several different ways because you know not everybody is comfortable raising a hand and speaking out loud in public. Sometimes we do that – take a look over here. We did that in this meeting earlier tonight and we showed right on the screen what people said. As they raised their hands and spoke out, we typed their comments.

But that’s not the only way. Also earlier tonight, we asked people to write their comments on these pieces of paper and we put them on the wall. We didn’t know how they were going to be organized. We organized them after we saw all the pieces of paper on the wall.

A third way that we’re asking people to make their comments tonight is by writing on pieces of paper at their tables. Look we’ve got a question right down on the chart and we’re asking people to discuss and write their answers.

That’s not all – come over here. We asked people to draw their ideas on maps. “Where do you want growth to occur in our town? Where do you want no growth?”

Look, the point is that whenever you’re asking for public input ask it in a way that gives many different types of opportunities to give their input. That’s how you help your group make good decisions.

Thanks for listening everybody.

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Decision method right-sized

Good Group Tips

In principle, the amount of energy (time, money, etc.) invested in a group decision should be in proportion to the amount of impact it’s likely to have. The magnitude of the impact is a combination of how many people are affected, how deeply, and for how long into the future.

Consensus decisions are best suited to those that we expect to affect many people and last a long time — decisions that are expected to live longer than the current generation of decision makers. Consensus decisions are characterized by inclusive participation, shared understanding, and acceptance among all key stakeholders. This is when everybody decides for everybody.

Majority rule works well for medium-size decisions: decisions that are expected to last for awhile but are open to challenge and easily changed as majorities change (as generations of decision makers turn over). This is when most of the people decide for everybody.

One person in charge works well for decisions expected to last a short time with limited impact. Here, one person makes decisions on behalf of everybody.

Practical Tip: Don’t use the same decision method for all decisions. Up front, consider the likely magnitude of impact for each decision and choose consensus, majority rule, one decider, or some other method. You might use consensus for things like mission statements and strategic plans, majority rule for things like annual budgets, and leave day-to-day operations to individual deciders.

It’s not right-sized for just one person to decide the group’s 10-year plan, or for tomorrow’s schedule to be decided by consensus.

– Craig Freshley

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Good Group Tips

In principle, advice works best when it is solicited and unconditional.

Practical Tip: Generally, don’t give advice unless asked. Who are you to say that you know best, especially when you have not walked in the other’s shoes? If you give advice only when asked you are on solid ground and minimize reasons for regrets. Unsolicited advice is called for only when an intervention is truly warranted.

Give advice without expectations about what will result. Giving advice with strings — conditions or expectations — is a set up for disappointment. Besides, unconditional advice is much more useful to the receiver. Better decisions are made when the decider is free to act on all, part of, or none of the advice given.

Receive solicited advice with appreciation, whether you like it or not.

Ask for advice with specifics and parameters. You might ask for comments on a written proposal or answers to a specific question. Or you might describe a specific situation and ask, “What would you do?”

I hope you asked for this Tip. Use it however you like.

– Craig Freshley

Click here for one-page PDF of this Tip, a great way to print or share.

Put the Tips in action for your group. Click here to learn about Craig’s Keynotes and Seminars.