Pattern #36

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Full Spectrum Information Card

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Full Spectrum Information

Full Spectrum Information Symbol

Credits: Sascha BurkardschweingrubersJezper – Shutterstock / Mountain “Niesen” in Switzerland – M. Rausch

Pattern Heart

Beyond minimizing bias and suppression, wisdom demands consideration of all major perspectives as well as significant views from the edges. Work to base all efforts on as full a range of information and ways of knowing as possible, thereby increasing the likelihood of taking into account what needs to be taken into account.

Some related patterns:   22 Critical Thinking   29 Expanding Situational Curiosity   30 Expertise on Tap (Not on Top)   54 Multi-Modal Intelligence   83 Taboo Awareness   84 Tackling Cognitive Limitations   92 Whole System in the Conversation

  • What information are we missing, ignoring, or biased against? What information have we turned away, and why? Are we influenced by any unexamined assumptions, cognitive biases, or mainstream taboos?
  • Have we included everything we can think of as relevant here, plus some to stir up our thinking? (Of course, since everything is connected, one way or another, have we established our criteria of relevance in an appropriately manageable way?)
  • Are we making creative use of information and perspectives from the margins as well as from the mainstream?
  • Have we explored not just the objective dimensions of the issue we’re considering, but the different ways it can be viewed or experienced?

Full Spectrum Information – going deeper …

This is an edited version of the video on this page.

Very often in public deliberations, there’s an interest in balance. And balance is usually about “both sides”.  Well the first thing to assume from a wise democracy perspective is that there are more than two sides.

But the concern about balance is that we don’t want to have bias, and we don’t want to have voices suppressed. We want to make sure there’s justice in this system, which means if we are going to choose between A or B, there’s nothing that is going to bias us towards A rather than B right at the start. Whatever decision we come to should be based on understanding what’s involved and on reason – and both A and B have something to say about that.

Now although minimizing bias and suppression of voices is very desirable, it is not enough from a generating wisdom perspective. From a wise democracy perspective we want to have ALL major perspectives, not just A and B, but G and Q, and the other ones and any significant views from the edges. How do we do that? We can’t cover all possible perspectives, since there’s an infinite number of them.  We can’t cover all possible information, since there is a virtually infinite amount of information.  We can’t track all possible interconnections, etc.

So we admit we can’t cover it all, but we seriously think in terms of full-spectrum. If there’s lots of people and views from the edges, we may want to include three of them, or a half dozen of them, to stir up the pot, so the conversation doesn’t get trapped too much in just the main things that most people are already talking about. Having the Green party involved, instead of just the liberals and conservatives, is an example.

Obviously the more we base our efforts on a full range of information, the more likely we will take into account what needs to be taken into account. We are less likely to miss things that are obvious.

There are also diverse ways of knowing that can help us. Information is not just the facts but also the ways the various intelligences make meaning of those facts.  There’s analytic ways of knowing where we want to gather all the information we can, and see how it connects up. And there’s intuitive ways of knowing, and there’s heartful ways of knowing, and there’s the knowing in our guts. We want to have all the different ways of knowing available to us, to apply to our full range of information. (The pattern Multi-Modal Intelligence addresses this explicitly.)

If we bring all of our cognitive power individually and collectively to a situation, we will be able to generate something that is wise, or at least much wiser than it would be if we were being constrained by lots of blind spots and incomplete information.

This is one of the key areas that needs work for wise democracy. If you are focussed on fairness, I suggest you may not gather as much full-spectrum information as you would if you are trying to achieve wisdom. To be fair you just want balance.  To achieve wisdom you’re trying to cover all bases and not miss anything. So that’s one of the advantages of having “wise democracy” as your center of gravity.

Video Introduction (6 min)

Examples and Resources

There’s not really any one method that does this really well. There are methods that get beyond the A or B choice, to minimize our tendency to oversimplify and polarize. An organization that does this well is the National Issues Forums. They have an arrangement called “Framing an Issue for Deliberation” where they pull together between three and five major perspectives on an issue. They describe each one of those perspectives with the arguments and the evidence to support it, and they present that collection of information to the citizen deliberators right at the start. This shakes up their solid ideas, because each policy approach looks reasonable within its own frame of reference. It shakes up any solid ideas the deliberators might have on it and opens them up a bit. They are not necessarily supposed to pick one of the approaches.  They’re supposed to look at the whole realm that is covered by these various perspectives, and see if they can come up with something that is better than any of them, that has the blessings of all them and minimizes the limitations of all of them.

Another interesting approach was the British Columbia Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform. They spent a lot of time, about every other weekend for almost a year. These 160 people met and examined a lot of different ways of doing elections, and asked for information from a wide variety of people and organizations and had public hearings. They really looked for different perspectives before they made their decision.

But we could do more.  I think of Citizens Juries, for example, which do provide briefing materials and balanced informative briefings by expert witnesses for the deliberators. But I always want – somewhere in the middle of that process – for the citizen jurors to take a break in little teams of two or three and go search on the web for interesting perspectives and solutions to their issue that weren’t covered in their briefings. I want this to stir up the pot, and get outside the box of whatever mainstream options and briefings they have been given.  This increases the likelihood their findings and recommendations will be wise.