First dates are all about strategies that both parties can agree to but which won't help them learn if the date was effective. Think of a first date: We try to express ourselves and learn about the other person, but not express ourselves too much or offend by being intrusive. We default to friendly over controversial, even at the risk of sounding dull.
Sound familiar? Dan's talking about dating, but it reminds me of some association board meetings I've been in. "Default to friendly over controversial, even at the risk of sounding dull." That's practically a mission statement for some associations.
Dan calls this "bad equilibrium"--a strategy that doesn't result in a positive outcome for anyone. To change that dynamic, Dan ran an experiment, in which he limited the type of discussions people on first dates could engage in. He gave them a list of questions, and their discussion could only revolve around those issues. Questions like:
- How many romantic partners have you had?
- When was your last breakup?
- Do you have any STDs?
- Have you ever broken someone's heart?
- How do you feel about abortion?
We believe that restricting the market in such ways can get people to gravitate toward behaviors that produce better results for everyone. (Remember, in dating, learning sooner that you're not compatible is a better result than wasting time being polite to each other.)
Does the same theory apply to association board meetings? Like Dan says, by forcing people out of their comfort zones, might we ultimately gain more than just allowing everyone to fall back on those tropes that are safe for everyone, and useful to no one?
If so, what kind of questions would you put on your board members' discussion list? And what kind of questions should your board members be putting on yours?