WEBINAR REWIND – August: “Victoria Encore – Navigating Culture Wars Through Thoughtful P2”

The last webinar of the “season” brought together four longtime P2 practitioners to reprise their presentation from the 2018 IAP2 North American Conference. John Godec, Debra Duerr, Wendy Green Lowe and Doug Sarno have seen a lot in their careers, including an alarming decline in trust in public institutions. This has coincided with the increase in cultural divisions, and has reached a point where, according to a Pew Research survey, only 18% of American trust their government. A similar survey in Canada pegs that number at 36%, and in Australia, it’s 21%. 

What does that mean for a P2 practitioner?

For one thing, it means that trust in “expertise” is eroding. Where planners, engineers and other professionals used to be regarded as people who Know What They’re Doing, they’re viewed more and more with suspicion, simply because they work for them. Trust, as John points out, is no longer a given.

It’s also important to understand how people’s minds work, and the presentation points out that there are differences in “wiring” between those who self-identify as “progressives” and those who call themselves “conservatives”. Neurological studies suggest that the brains of “conservatives” have larger “fear centers” than those of “progressives”, and therefore, the “fight-or-flight” response has a greater impact on their worldview. (Source: bigthink.com – “Liberal Brains are Different from Conservative Brains”) 

In other words, decisions are made more by emotional factors than reason. For a P2 practitioner, that means emotion-driven people don’t “play well with others”. It’s hard to get people to participate or engage if they’re not interested in another point of view, and, in fact, it’s often preferable to dispute hard facts than alter one’s beliefs.

P2 practitioners also need to be aware of the impact a desire for control has on people’s mindsets. It’s the job of the P2 practitioner to give people confidence that their opinions count, their voices will be heard and they’ll know how their input has affected the outcome of a process.

That’s all in line with the IAP2 Code of Ethics and Core Values (#4 and #7).

It’s also important to keep in mind that humans, by nature, have a biological need for choice. Even if there’s no difference in the outcome or reward, animals and humans alike have a preference for choice: tasks involving choice are more enjoyable and see better performance; removing the element of choice increases the stress level. 

In short, the webinar shows that we, as humans are wired to

  • Prefer choice
  • Trust those who are “like us”
  • Want control over things — for better or for worse
  • Hate confusion and ambiguity
  • Receive a hit of dopamine in our brains — a spiritual reward — when we finally understand something — the great AHA! Experience.

The webinar contains a wealth of ideas for a P2 practitioner to consider, especially when diving into a process where people are divided on an issue or have wildly diverging ideals. IAP2 members can review the webinar and download collateral material here.

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