Challenging Plans or Ideas: The Ritual Dissent Approach

Six Thinking Hats
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Gary Wong
Consultant, Canada

Challenging Plans or Ideas: The Ritual Dissent Approach

When facilitating strategic planning sessions, I often will use a Cognitive-Edge Inc. workshop method called: 'Ritual Dissent'.
It is designed to test and enhance proposals, ideas, plans through challenge - what is wrong, why it won't work, downsides, risk exposure, etc. It is a forced listening technique, not a dialogue or discourse.

The Ritual Dissent approach involves a spokesperson presenting to a table group who receives them in silence. The spokesperson then turns the chair around so that his/her back is to the audience and listens in silence while the group tears into it with full pessimism. Since the ritualization of not facing the audience removes eye contact, the feedback is not taken as an personal attack. It also helps with depersonalization when there are several table groups with spokespersons going the same process simultaneously. Spokespersons who are forced to listen in silence without eye contact find they can better focus on listening and precise note-taking instead of thinking about explanations to defend.

In Six Thinking Hats terms, the short hat sequence is: Green/Black. A longer sequence would have the spokesperson return to his/her group to remedy the negatives heard. Thus: Green/Black/Red/Green/Blue. The Red Hat is a quick feelings check with group members after they hear the negatives. The key concerns are then addressed wearing the Green Hat. With the Blue Hat on, the spokesperson or possibly another group member summarizes and prepares for the next round.
A second round would start with the spokesperson presenting the rework at a different table. The number of rounds conducted corresponds to the number of group tables. Typically 3 rounds can be done within 60 to 90 minutes.
If time permits, a final presentation can be made to the entire group so that everyone knows how their feedback has contributed.


Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

Approaches to (Temporarily) Focus on the Negative Side of a Plan or Idea

Thanks Gary for sharing these 2 interesting ways to focus on what is wrong with a plan or proposal, ... Sign up

Gregory Johnson
Coach, United States

The Ritual Dissent Concept

I'm trying to embrace the process as a tool. I think it's going to take awhile since I have been hoo... Sign up

Gary Wong
Consultant, Canada

How Appreciative Inquiry meshes with Six Thinking Hats and Ritual Dissent

@Greg Johnson: Hi, Greg. I'm an AI practitioner who had the fortune of being trained by David and Di... Sign up

Joseph Mohammed
Student (Other), Trinidad and Tobago

Ritual Dissent is Interesting Form of Feedback

Very interesting approach to feedback. Will have to see this in practical use to gauge viability, bu... Sign up

Elaine Brown
Teacher, United Kingdom

Six Thinking Hats - Used in Practice

I work in the early year’s education sector; I agree this approach can develop staffs confidence to ... Sign up

Entrepreneur, United States

Interesting Approaches with Challenges Finding Acceptance

I like the Ritual Dissent approach and also find the Six Thinking hats interesting. I would think th... Sign up


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