Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Network of Conversations

Finnish sociologist Niklas Luhmann stated that “community is a network of conversations.” This is one of those quotes that immediately strikes you as being true, even when you don’t understand it. I have a pretty good idea about usage of the word “conversations” in emergent circles. In fact, I guess that it’s very closely related to my use of the word “negotiate,” or “sitting down at the table.”

Think of negotiating “in good faith.” How’s that defined? You have notions of transparency and fairness… in short, the Golden Rule, so that community becomes a network of Golden Rule participants. I was concerned that saying proper negotiating follows the Golden Rule is stating the obvious, especially when you could say that proper anything follows the Golden Rule. However, to put the emphasis on conversation heightens the attention to communication, the transparency side of negotiations, and using the word “negotiations” acknowledges that each party has its own set of interests; i.e. we don’t operate and relate in a bubble devoid of interest, and we are not all the same.

A pressure point in negotiations happens right here when parties realize that their interests do not map with those of other parties. You hear statements like, “I thought we were on the same page,” and the words carry a tone of betrayal and disappointment.

This isn’t right, though. Indeed, it betrays a certain naiveté to feel this shock. Of course the other party or parties have a different set of interests from my own. We should realize this.

What should inform this is another question: what is germane to this particular project? We are seeking to set scope. Are we on the same page? The only page that matters is the most local one that covers the project. Do our interests within the scope of the project map to a tolerable level of congruence? This is why Jesus says (TM) that if they're not against us they're for us.

Most misunderstandings where there wasn’t an out and out transmission error, in other words, where all words and intentions got transmitted and received correctly (transparency), fall under the category of scope error.

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