Seeing What Others See

A teacher shared a story where she often asks students to work in pairs to think through how to divide an orange. At the beginning of the activity each partner is told, without the other’s knowledge, a reason for wanting the fruit. One person is told the reason is to make juice, while the other is told that the reason is to use the peel for a muffin recipe.

If they fail to explore each other’s interests, as most pairs do, the partners may end up fighting over the orange. Or they may decide to cut it in half, giving each side an equal or sometimes less than equal share. Some people even quit when they can’t get the whole orange.

Only a few pairs arrive at the optimal solution, in which one person gets the peel, the other gets the juice, and both are satisfied. How did they get there? By investigating each other’s needs.

During the Discuss phase of a shura, some participants may find it difficult to give serious consideration to other recommended courses of action beside those that they provide. To help prevent this type of thinking from shaping the responses of others, the shura initiator should encourage everyone to be open about their personal interests and how they think they can contribute to solving the problem.

Sometimes all that is needed is to ask questions that invite others to explain their thinking behind a recommended course of action. As this dialogue unfolds, other participants are able to view the exchange of ideas and might be motivated to add their views. Out of all this, the desired outcome is to try to explore all views, improve them as necessary, and present the best ones for consideration of adoption.

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