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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
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 involvedjust 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.
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 advanceand 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 punishmentand to reduce the attrition of the higher-mindedreduce 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.
Detailed step-by-step instructions for performing
A group of 2 or more people besides yourself. Hundreds can "play," subdivided into groups of from 4 to 6 persons each.
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
Step One: Viewed from disequilibrium
Imagine the problem to have been extremely disequilibriated by having been "solved."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.
Step Two: Identification of problem elements
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.
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