Common ground

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…you have the whole system in the room where people take responsibility, so you are ready to explore the whole elephant.

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Increased cooperation and fast action on matters of shared concern create community and avoids conflict.

common ground is:

  • a foundation for mutual understanding;
  • shared beliefs or interests, a foundation for mutual understanding;
  • a basis agreed to by all parties for reaching a mutual understanding.

In the context of a gathering, common ground is defined as:

those statements agreed to without reservation by every person in the gathering.

Explore the whole elephant to lay the groundwork for people to open up to each other. sticky problem space to . Collect and park lingering open conflicts to . Encourage everyone to go back to the future to , and crank out next year’s headlines.


Pick an issue on which finding common ground matters. Tell people you want to treat problems and conflicts as information until everyone understands where they are together and where they are not. Create an opportunity for dialogue where people confirm their areas of agreement. Compile a list of those items on which to agree to disagree. Pick one of depersonalize conflict, legitimate different perspectives, or integrator for finding common ground.

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  • sticky problem space—Save problem solving until all can talk about the same world. Rushing to solve problems too quickly diverts people from discovering what aspirations they hold.
  • lingering open conflicts—Seeking common ground reverses the 80/20 rule, for people often spend 80 percent of their time on 20 percent of the issues that they cannot resolve. When common ground is the goal, 80 percent of the time goes to finding where everybody is in agreement.
  • expanding horizons—Form triads and ask its members to interview each other using two questions:
    1. Tell me about a time when you felt truly at home; and
    2. What does it mean to you to be involved in joining forces and ventures as free lancers?
    Very quickly participants will discover shared experiences and values. Almost spontaneously, conversations lead to a set of ‘must criteria for acceptable collaboration’. Participants find common ground through an appreciative inquiry into two universal dimensions of human experience. This results in a strategy endorsed and actively supported by every member of the group.

To get to common ground (option 1):

  1. Write down statements of what you think everyone will agree to.
  2. Post the statements on the wall while clustering and thickening.
  3. Read every cluster aloud.
  4. Ask for questions and clarifications.
  5. Have a volunteer write new statements if necessary.
  6. Move items to the agree to disagree list if people cannot agree after a few minutes of dialogue.
  7. Optional: Turn each statement into a mini saga.

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Common ground is not compromise

When people agree reluctantly to propositions they consider partially okay, they end up endorsing positions they don’t hold. common ground:

  • does not require anyone to go along to preserve harmony;
  • describes real agreement at a point in time;
  • does not require convincing others that your views are correct;
  • includes acknowledging where you agree to disagree to ;
  • acknowledges every person’s perceptions and validates unresolved issues.

Talking long enough to “know what we are saying to each other” is the key to finding common ground. Nobody has to give up anything to discover that.

Benefits of finding common ground

There are many benefits to finding common ground before solving problems or making decisions. common ground:

  • saves people a great deal of time;
  • reduces ambiguity and uncertainty knowing where there is full agreement and where there isn’t;
  • flows the energy toward implementation instead of convincing those who do not agree;
  • enables people take responsibility when they know where everybody stands;
  • swifts action;
  • pleasantly surprises people when they discover how much agreement exists.