Consensus Building from the Oneida Nation

In the book Systems Thinking: Managing chaos and complexity by J. Gharajedaghi, there are many concepts and examples of systems thinking. This is a book to read many times. One of the examples that Gharajedaghi provides is of the Oneida Nation. Their process used to solve problems is one that could be used for online communities, with three distinct roles to be performed in achieving consensus.

Using different attributes and characteristics for each of the three symbols of turtle, wolf and bear, the culture, to its credit, had identified and separated the three distinct roles of pathfinder, problem formulator, and problem solver. The role played by the wolves is that of pathfinder / synthesizer. Wolves display purposeful behavior by setting the direction, dealing with the “why” questions, identifying relevant issues, and defining the agenda and context before they are presented to the turtles, the problem formulators, to define them. The defined problems are, in turn, passed on by the turtles to the bears, the problem solvers. Bears generate alternatives and recommend solutions. Solutions are returned to the turtles to check on their relevance and potency before referring them back to the wolves to check on their relevance. Wolves are finally responsible for integrating the solutions, keeping the records, and ratifying and communicating the final agreements. Wolves keep the fire alive by motivating and monitoring others.

Like the Six Nations Confederacy from which this model comes, different individuals or groups can play different roles in order to find the best solution for an entire community of society.

3 Responses to “Consensus Building from the Oneida Nation”

  1. Tom Land

    The weakness of Six Sigma continues to be around managing the people side of organizational improvement. For example, when organizations reward employees for cost cutting and implementing innovative solutions by downsizing, is it any wonder that the idea pool will dry up? I believe the limitations of both Six Sigma and creating a Culture of Innovation lies not so much in the technology side, but inadequate attention to the roles leaders, suervisors, employees, teams, and organizational systems need to play to create successful results.

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