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Journal Article

A novel approach to challenging consensus in evaluations: The Agitation Workshop  pp48-58

John McAvoy, Tadhg Nagle, David Sammon

© Jun 2013 Volume 16 Issue 1, ECIME 2012, Editor: Dr. David Sammon and Dr. Tadhg Nagle, pp1 - 84

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Abstract: As researchers evaluate organisations, projects, and teams, there is a desire for a consensus from those within the organisations who are participating in the research. A common consensual perspective from a team appears to reflect an optimal st ate where those being evaluated have a common understanding of the current state of events within the context of their environment. The question arises, though, whether an evaluation finding consensus reflects the reality: there are a variety of reasons w hy a common understanding may be false consensus. Hidden behind this false consensus may be a variety of unaddressed issues which are actually the core of the problem. This paper proposes an evaluation method incorporating the principles of sensemaking an d devilĀs advocate, where a consensus of perspectives is challenged before they are considered valid. This is achieved in a workshop where participants reflect on their own perception of reality and represent this reality in a matrix of influencing and re levant factors. The individual matrices are then combined and used to highlight disparities in the participantsĀ perspectives through a single matrix visualisation. Discussion in the workshop then focusses on the areas, highlighted by the matrix, where di fferences of perspectives are identified. In effect, the consensus presented by those being evaluated will be challenged, and a new common understanding will have to be created. Problems such as groupthink can create a false consensus, and it is proposed herein that the workshop provides a mechanism for challenging this. The objective of the research herein was to determine the feasibility and potential benefits of the proposed workshop. The workshop itself is evaluated in this paper, to determine if it has value. The benefits of such a workshop are described, showing how an organisation went from a false consensus concerning problems within the organisation, to the start of a process to address the real underlying issues.


Keywords: Keywords: consensus, false consensus, workshop, groupthink, evaluation, hidden, sensemaking, shared understanding


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