Moving from Tension to Trust: The Art of Building Viable Options

When two or more people gather to come up with options to any questions or intentions, inevitably, many options can emerge and fall short of capturing agreement or create tensions among us.

Before we had good models for building viable options, all we had were the crude tools of voting. As much as we romance voting in the dubious and superstitious belief that the majority is intrinsically smarter than the minority, voting effectively stunts the organic growth of viable options and erodes trust as the group divides into winners and losers.

In the Agile Canvas, we are smarter together. We don't divide the group into the some who are more right than others. We unite in a common and skillful process of building viable options and trust. We acknowledge tension as inevitable and turn it into an asset.

The two basic forms of tension are which and or.

Which is the question of best multiple options. Which approach should we choose? Which strategy is the priority? Which solution should we invest in? Which resource should we engage? Or is the question of the better of two options. Should we pursue this or that? Should we invest in this or that? Which is the best way, this or that? When groups get stuck in which and or questions, they get divided, stuck and ultimately less smarter together.

In the Agile Canvas, everyone works together in trust building, wise collaboration using the six conversational habits of like, so, could, what, and, else.

  • Like: What do we like about this option?
  • So: So can you tell us more about this option?
  • Could: What could be the disadvantages to this option?
  • What: What does the research say about this option?
  • And: And what could we add to make this option stronger?
  • Else: How else could we realize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages of this option?

These simple, powerful habits organically build and synergize options into viable options that are realistic, wise and worthy of everyone's agreement. Voting is never necessary. No one gets defensive or offensive, which translates into optimal mutual learning and creativity. Everyone feels heard and valued. This is significant because creativity only blossoms in a culture of people feeling heard and valued. We move from the weakness of either-or to the richness of both-and. We move quickly from tension to trust. Groups move at the speed of trust.

We don't get to smart agreement by trying to narrow down by elimination, but by building and connecting options into viable synergies of inclusion.