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Win-Win Finder
Incentive Equilibrium Analysis—
resolve conflict so all sides win

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.

Incentive/Equilibrium Analysis is a fairly recent major creative problem-solving system to find its way into world use. It was first introduced in 1987 by this writer, at the annual Creative Problem-Solving Institute in Buffalo, New York, where some form of it has been practiced each year since. I/E Analysis has turned out to be far more than only a very good system for solving problems, and we will explore some of its other uses after the instructions below. First, we present it as a group creative solution-finding procedure.

The first 7 steps of I/E Analysis require, the first time tried, between 1 and 3 hours, and subsequently can be performed in about half to three quarters of an hour. Step 8 is a function of other variables, these mostly being the prior experience of participants, and can run between a few minutes and several hours.

For quick reference, use this handy Summary of Steps to Basic Win-Win Finder.


The Basis of Incentive/Equilibrium Analysis
Problems which last a while, despite varied good efforts to solve them—especially problems in the firm or in society involving large numbers of people—are usually situations in equilibrium. By definition, these are in self-defending homeostasis or sociostasis. Self-balancing, they reflexively maintain themselves, often in complex or sophisticated ways.

Identify and intercept the reflexive negative feedbacks by means of which a homeostatic situation or system maintains its equilibrium, and you can change that system almost without effort, with low cost in energy or money. To override that reflexive feedback is what drives up costs and makes solving that problem situation expensive, difficult or impossible.

Problems which are major, especially problems which involve many people, subsist from the behaviors of the people in that self-equilibrating situation --usually reflexive, usually undertaken for wholly different conscious motives than are the unconscious motives which are controlling the behaviors.

The tendency of most complexly sociostatic situations is to retain and restore equilibrium by unconscious reflex, regardless of the conscious motives of those involved—just as the homeostatic physical human body maintains its million-and-one complex balances by unconscious reflex, leaving the person's conscious mind free to address other issues.


Acerbation Factor
Others looking on, or those adversely affected by the continuance or chronic return of the problem situation, assume that the controlling motives which direct people in those system-reflexive behaviors are conscious. They make severely negative judgments about the (presumably) conscious motives of those who keep the problem going. These judgments are almost always highly insulting as well as inaccurate, and engender the hostilities so frequently featured in major problem equilibria.

Where large numbers of people are involved, and especially in hierarchical and complex situations, there tends to develop a very great difference between what benefits the common good and what will benefit one's own narrowly selfish interests.

Where such a difference exists, necessarily persons motivated by self-interest will advance—and at the expense of people who are motivated by what would benefit the whole.

To the extent such a difference is allowed to exist (or where you are very persuasive), such situations necessarily punish humanitarian and "higher" motivations. You can reduce to some extent that difference and that punishment, but you cannot entirely eliminate it. If what benefited selfish interests entirely benefited also the common good, the "selfish" would resemble the humanitarian and could not thereby be sorted out in favor of the humanitarian; in all other cases the situation sorts out the humanitarian in favor of the selfish. If you are very persuasive to the point where people on the other side of an issue from you go against their own interests, you soon run out of friends and potential friends.

To reduce such punishment—and to reduce the attrition of the higher-minded—reduce the difference between what benefits the individual and what benefits the whole. One way to achieve this is to address problem equilibria with the Win-Win Finder aspect of I/E Analysis.

Reduce the sacrifice of those who are motivated by or responsive to higher concerns. This frees them—and more people generally—to act on their higher and conscious motivations, and reduce the power and role of system-reflex, unconscious, inadmissible motivations. People become better people and more of the better people survive. Widespread use of the Win-Win Finder thus tends us toward a less bruising and more rational, sensible world.


Detailed step-by-step instructions for performing
Incentive/Equilibrium Analysis

You need—

o A group of 2 or more people besides yourself. Hundreds can "play," subdivided into groups of from 4 to 6 persons each.

o Plenty of "Post-It" pads, and pens or markers and notepads enough to go around.

o A large sheet of paper (11x17 or larger) on a table, or an equivalent space on a chalkboard or markerboard, per sub-group "playing."

o (Optional:) a Polaroid camera and film, or a video camera, with which to easily record particular configurations en route to your most optimal solution.

If this is mostly people new to the procedure, so that the process is likely to require several hours, you might want refreshments also on hand in service of a break


Setting Up The Problem
Select or state the problem. In a small boxed-in space on the center of the allotted large piece of paper or board space, write the statement of the problem. Up to the middle of either side of that boxed-in problem space, draw a horizontal line through the allotted space or large sheet. Evenly spaced, draw 2 more lines across which mark off three horizontal spaces above the middle of that box, and 2 more such lines across the allotted space or large sheet which mark off three horizontal spaces below the level of that problem box. Here's what your diagram would look like:

Win-Win diagram


Step One: Viewed from disequilibrium
To bring equilibriating forces into view,

o Imagine the problem to have been extremely disequilibriated by having been "solved."

o Imagine and describe in detail to your paired partner within your larger group or sub-group, what it would be like if the problem were not only solved but solved to an exaggerated degree, and notice everything that comes to vision or to mind in that context.

o Brainstorm as many as possible of all the things you can think of which would be different if the problem were solved in such an exaggerated or extreme way.
Don't stop to argue or judge, just include whatever entries come up. Find 40-50-100 possible differences resulting from the problem having been solved so utterly.

This exaggeration makes apparent some elements of the problem situation which would not have been so noticeable in static views of it even when participants are well informed. Whatever the problem, expanding thus the view of it being solved expands our perceptual map of the situation, and gives us room to peer between its elements.
(5-10 minutes)


Step Two: Identification of problem elements
In groups of 3 to 6, brainstorm who are all the players in that problem situation and who are all the players in the wings—Anyone who relates to, is affected by, affects or could affect, or could be affected by, that problem situation. Give specific names wherever possible, but identify also all groups and "interests" as well.

When in doubt as to whether a named entity is part of the situation, record it anyway instead of debating.

All named persons, parties, interests each go on a slip of Post-It.
(5-12 minutes)

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