I was recently working with a client that was frustrated because they felt stuck in a loop. There was this difficult to solve problem, and no solutions had been implemented despite lots of talk about what to do.
"I keep telling them, 'we should do this.' But they don't listen, they don't care." My client lamented.
Perhaps you're familiar with such a frustrating situation. It's all talk and no action, one of the common pitfalls in co-creating conversations.
Co-creating conversations are those discussions we have when the sum is greater than the whole of its parts. When we are dealing with big challenges or wicked problems, co-creating conversations are how we find solutions. That's because such situations require the knowledge, expertise and insights of people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives coming together.
There are a number of reasons we fall into the trap of all talk and no action during co-creating conversations. Sometimes it's because the thrill of discussing a new idea is more gratifying than actually doing the work.
Other times, it's because we lack a clear and shared understanding of what it is we are actually striving to resolve and how we are going to do that together.
In the instance of this client. The problem was that they were jumping the gun advocating for solutions. They wanted their idea to be the one. They were addicted to being right.
"What if you stopped talking about what you should do and redirected the conversation to explore how you'll select a solution?" I nudged.
"What do you mean?" They asked.
"Have you established priorities and criteria for how you'll choose a solution yet?"
"Well, not really."
"So, how are you supposed to collectively agree on a solution then?" They pondered the question further.
Oftentimes, when there's a lack of follow-through, it is because there isn't genuine buy-in and agreement for the solutions being offered. When we get too fixated on solving the problem and forgo identifying how we will collectively work on that together, people don't feel vested. This was especially true in my client's case; everyone agreed there was a problem that needed to be resolved.
As we continued exploring these ideas I nudged again, "Before advocating solutions, it's helpful to have a discussion about how you will approach resolving this together. How might you redirect the conversation in that way?"
When we checked in later my client was excited to report progress. "Things are finally happening. And I actually think that the solution will end up being better than I imagined possible. I'm really excited now."
It turned out that their initial assumptions, that people aren't listening or don't care were not true. They formed that story to explain the disconnect they were experiencing - everyone agreed there was a problem but no one was solving it. And as long as they stayed mired in that story, it limited their ability to show up in the conversation in a constructive fashion.
By stepping back from advocating solutions and instead exploring what was really important to everyone with an open mind, they changed the dynamics in a powerful way. It truly became a co-creating conversation where the collective worked together to develop a solution. As a result, everyone was committed to following through by doing their part. What's more, the solution was superior to what my client had initially recommended.