Embracing Equity of Voice in Complex Thinking Part II, Using Humor and a Bit of Sesame Street

The National Science Foundation’s research on the relevance of Equity of Voice in collaboration has yielded intriguing insights. Their findings display the fundamental role this concept plays in shaping the success of collaboration.
In collaborative events like Strategic Doing, research suggests that speaking time should ideally be distributed relatively equally among all participants, with a significant portion of our time dedicated to active listening. This practice, known as Equity of Voice, is not merely about fairness; it’s a strategic approach to harnessing the collective intelligence of a group.
By applying the principles of Equity of Voice in collaboration, we can create an environment where every voice is valued, leading to more innovative and collaborative outcomes that tap into the diverse thinking of a group.
But how can we put the principles of equity of voice into practice? One approach may be to establish it ahead of time as a ground rule. Another is following the 80/20 Rule, asking people to actively listen 80-percent of the time and only talk 20-percent of the time in a collaborative event.
Drawing from my experience as an Examiner with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, I’ve found the concept of ELMO—Enough, Let’s Move On—to be incredibly effective. In longer, passionate conversations, ELMO served as a tool to abbreviate points and keep the process moving forward. In my facilitation work, I’ve taken this a step further by placing a three-inch stuffed Elmo on each table during events such as a Strategic Doing workshop. This allows anyone, even the quietest person on a team, to call ELMO and uphold the principles of equity of voice. I’ve witnessed people use ELMO creatively, from tossing it to an extrovert that lacks self-awareness to bring the conversation back on track to using a bit of humor by making Elmo dance on the table to emphasize the need to move the conversation forward. It is a great way to reinforce Equity of Voice as a ground rule with a bit of humor.
Experiment with ELMO and integrate this research to drive collaborative excellence and achieve shared goals in your work. It may foster an environment with greater psychological safety and inclusion, where every voice matters.
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