How to Use “Pros and Cons” with a Group of People


MODERN FRANKLIN

Purpose

This tool supports decision-making for a group of people.  It can be viewed as a surrogate to Benjamin Franklin’s “Pros & Cons” method, whose approach is better suited for an individual than a group of people.  Especially with controversial issues, it is helpful to consider multiple points of view.Two Sides of Every Issues

Method

To discuss a controversial issue, carefully (and with advanced forethought about the need for a homogeneous, heterogeneous, or hybrid blend) separate your participants into three teams: Affirmative, Dismissive, and Observer.  Give the affirmative and dismissive teams each 15 minutes to develop their arguments, respectively supporting and refuting the issue.  The observer team drafts the criteria by which it may evaluate the issue.  Have each team present their arguments to the observer team—like in a debate or court of law.  Next . . .

  • The affirmative and dismissive teams prepare for a two-minute rebuttal to defend their positions.
  • The audience group then describes the criteria they suggest using to decide the issue, based on the arguments presented by both affirmative and dismissive groups.
  • The groups are given another five minutes to revise their arguments based on audience criteria and the debate sequence described above is repeated.
  • After the second round, the teams reform as one to discuss the issue.  If the discussion reaches an impasse, switch team members, carefully placing the louder voices on the teams opposite of their apparent voice so the are forced to the other side.

Do not polarize the participants.  Ensure that the teams are made up of people who hold a variety of views.  You select the teams—do not allow the participants to choose.  In most debate contests, the side you must defend is not known until minutes before the debate, so that the debaters are forced to show-up prepared to argue either side.

Benefits

The benefits of the exercise are that it:

  • Stretches the issues, criteria, and perspectives.
  • Allows the group to build a stronger view of all sides of the issue.
  • Typically provides more robust and coherent arguments, issues, and criteria.

Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember friends, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs)

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