Is Anyone Interested In Rational Problem-Solving?
As another shutdown looms large, I wonder how we lost our taste for solving complex problems in rational and effective ways. Or maybe we’ve lost the skill. Humans have been capable of using high-level cognitive abilities to weigh alternatives and devise creative solutions to complex problems for eons. Yet our esteemed leaders have forgone those capabilities and chosen to adopt playground level either-or, line-in-the-sand wrangling at a tremendous cost to everyone, including themselves.
So even though I know they are not listening, I offer the following set of principles and approaches for addressing the Immigration/Border Security problem effectively, enduringly, and in a way that most of us can accept.
- Generate a picture of a desirable outcome we can agree on broadly
This is not an either-or: ‘wall or no wall.’ Far from it! It’s a thoughtfully constructed set of articulated interests that reflects what most of us want. This becomes a starting place for discussion and negotiation. For example:
We need comprehensive Immigration Policy that:
Identifies criteria for who comes into the country and who does not, how they make application and how that is processed, what various paths to entry exist, and what happens to them at each step after entry is granted
Creates conditions that allow the country maximum control to implement and enforce these criteria
Creates manageable processes for determining which individuals who are already here illegally may stay or not
Does all of this humanely, at a reasonable cost, and with the best interest of the US as paramount
Please note, I’m not advocating for these particular statements, I offer them only as examples of what might be a set of desirable outcomes that most could support:
- Assemble a set of facts relative to the situation that are considered valid by all decision makers. Information should be provided by neutral entities and vetted until all can accept.
- Provide an opportunity for everyone to express their views, concerns, beliefs, etc. while being listened to without interruption. All are encouraged to keep an open mind and listen only for understanding and to learn why people feel the way they do. Stories and testimonials representing a wide range of experiences should be shared. A discussion is not allowed during this, just speaking and listening.
- Given all that has occurred to this point, groups are formed to generate specific proposals for creating the desired outcome. Creativity is encouraged. As ideas are shared, new proposals are generated that represent the best thinking of all.
- Proposals are weighed against their potential to bring about the desired outcome. Decision makers work together to consider costs, consequences, and the ability to implement various proposals. They choose the best ones to craft into proposed legislation.
I’m not suggesting this is easy to do, but it is possible, and it can work. Is it too rational? Maybe!
What do you think?
Dana Morris-Jones is the author of The Power of Difference: From Conflict to Collaboration in Five Steps.