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Step Three:   Setting values
Within your groups of 3-6, as rapidly as possible determine with each Post-It entry what the impact of solving the problem would be on the (perceived short-term) interests of each. Do this by means of "Quick-Vote."—As each entry is read aloud, within 3 seconds everyone in your group "votes" his/her estimate by holding up or down 0, 1, 2 or 3 fingers. A positive impact on the entry's perceived short-term interests is signified by the fingers held upward; an adverse or negative effect by the fingers held downward. In either case, the greater the perceived short-term impact on the entry's interests, the more the number of fingers held out accordingly.
o Position the Post-It of the entry at horizontal 0 line or 1, 2, or 3 spaces above or below, on your sheet or board, according to the rough average of your group's "vote.".

o On the left edge of the allotted large sheet or boardspace, provide a column space for "squiggles.". On the right edge, a column for asterisks (*). Accordingly,

o If there are wide disparities in your group's voting on some entry—say a plus two and a minus three—place that Post-It entry in the "squiggle" column. These squiggle cases are of special interest because examination of them often reveals whole sectors of the problem situation which might not otherwise have come to view.

o Also, for any entry where there is a strong sharp impression of long-term real interest differing greatly from short-term perceived interest— post that entry in the asterisk column. In whichever column, post each entry, whether squiggle or asterisk, to correspond in terms of level with the average of your group's perception of that entry's perceived short-term interests.

Continue until all Post-It entries are posted somewhere on the sheet or board at some valence level.
(10-15 minutes)

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Step Four:   Examine
Analyze your sheet or board, with this concept in mind:   Entries above the 0-line (those with positive valences) are your potential sources of support for a solution. Below that neutral 0-line, entries with negative valences are likely to be somehow involved in the defeat of attempted solutions (and policies and courses of action).

Of special interest:  swiftly review and analyze your "squiggle" and asterisk entries. In some special cases you may want to recap the above 3 steps in miniature, to identify elements within that special entry—these can be especially illuminating!

You may also discover key aspects of the problem situation from examining some of the possible relationships between entries, on and off the board or sheet. Especially focus on how a change in one might affect another.
(5-15 minutes)

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Step Five:  Win-Win Finder
Determine what changes or "sweeteners" would need to be added to the plan or solution or policy or course of action, to bring more entries topside your 0-line (making their perceived short-term interest impact positive). To what extent will the cost of those sweeteners subtract from some of your support? Start tinkering with the solution(s) or policy in such a way as to see if you can turn all valences positive and still have a distinctive thrust of solution.

It's crucial to begin making such changes or adding such sweeteners, if you are to emerge with a solution which will generate broad enough support to be a solution. One experimental group, in fact, which up to this point had performed brilliantly, froze on its initial solutions without even beginning to explore such changes to those perfect jewels of resolution—and was the only such group not to develop at least the beginnings of an emergent genuine solution. (Even the several groups which ran out of time were clearly en route to an effective solution.)

If, as you check out these sweeteners, your solution is beginning to look a bit thin, your policy expensive or shaky, you may want to take a picture of the current configuration of your sheet or board, then try a different proposed solution or policy. Go quickly as possible on each entry interest, to get a group-averaged estimate as to possible change from old to proposed new solution impacting on that entry's perceived short-term interests.

This is also your opportunity to get someone's "pet solution" run and out of the way. The more important a problem is, the likelier you will have people who have pet solutions to it. To free their full attention for the ultimate solution-finding, as soon as possible after running such a pet solution through the valences and down the tubes, start running another proposed solution through the valences.

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Design Objective
Find a solution which constitutes a win/win for all concerned, if possible even in the short run—and definitely a win/win for all in the long run. The extent to which the eventual solution falls short of that objective is the measure of the cost in power, force or extraordinary persuasion which would be required to implement that solution or policy.

If that solution is not universally win/win, it must be at least close enough that sufficient support will be generated to supply special or compensatory incentive to those factors which otherwise would not be sharing in the win. If your solution cannot generate that much support, it probably is not a good enough solution. Seek another which is.

Example:  One suggested idea for finding a cure for AIDS faster (or any seemingly incurable fatal disease which still leaves mental faculties relatively in good order) would be: to staff an entire major research center (and dedicated funding commitment) with medically qualified researchers who are themselves AIDS victims—and turn them loose on the problem. However—

o Other identified elements in the AIDS problem appear to be adversely affected by that possible answer and/or by any possible major and/or inexpensive cure. These elements would, consciously or unconsciously, probably block action for all sorts of high-minded reasons, explanations, protection of the public, safeguarding of human rights, rules of accountability for public resources, whatever

o To be adopted, this solution option would have to be accompanied by other measures, possibly by direct incentives to those other identified elements—and delicately enough not to offend sensibilities with an air of "buying off" someone or of impugning motives.
More generally, this example suggests, in broad outline at least, a strategy which might be used to rapidly find cures for most remaining incurable diseases, some of which have been around with billions in research and treatment spent on them, for a long time and with a tremendous extent of human suffering.

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Step Six (if needed):
If all your major solutions and policies have shown up bankrupt, then brainstorm in your group all possible solutions to the problem without regard to acceptability or suitability, to flush new options into view. The "support-first" rule is back in effect. Try for 40, 50, 100 solution suggestions.

Quickly pick out the most interesting ideas from the list, and/or bunch them. Give special attention to that idea which was first greeted with a burst of laughter, since that often turns out to be the best idea. If no one idea emerges "head and shoulders" above the rest, use whatever quick sort-down method can get you to the 2-3 most interesting solution possibilities within 3 minutes or so. Configure each on your sheet or board as above, then look for the least expensive sweeteners which will bring virtually everyone above the 0-line. Also, on each of these,

o Compare your own gut-level responses to each solution.

o See if you can identify and state in particulars the cause(s) of that gut-level response.

o See what that factor does when introduced into your board or sheet.
Remember that any problem-solving formula or method "is a tool, not a rule;". Its purpose is to expand perception over facets which otherwise might not get noticed and which just might possibly contain your winning answer. Sometimes, pointing in one direction is what brings another direction into view. In the long run, not the method but you make the decisions.

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Step Seven:   Select
Choose the preferred solution. Improve further on it. Design a step-by-step sequence of operations which will cause it to be implemented, a series of specific steps culminating in completion of the solving of that problem. Your steps need to be concrete enough, specific enough, that you will readily know when each is completed or that it is not. Pinpoint each step in sequence or time. Make sure you've accounted for First Step. (What's First Step? If there's anything which has to be done before that step, then it's not First Step, so what is First Step?)

In other words, generalities may point the direction, but solutions happen only through concrete specific steps.

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For quick reference:
Summary of Steps to Basic Win-Win Finder



Related reading:
Complex Homeostasis — the behavior of systems

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Comments to
Win Wenger


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