episode 15

“A Breakthrough for Preventing Society’s Collapse” with Jim Rough

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“People can’t imagine it can really be that good”
Are you ready to discover “choice-creating” and the power of leveraging and integrating our differences? Join Duncan and guest Jim Rough as they discuss finding win-win solutions for everyone with the Wisdom Council process.

Jim introduces the idea of “society’s breakthrough” and the four social innovations that support it. Our society is collapsing, and it’s time for transformation.

Duncan and Jim talk about how our current system cannot adapt to our problems, and how we need to switch to a new way of thinking. Facilitators can change the future: Find out how in this episode.

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This episode and much more content is available in written form


  • Learn why dialogue alone can’t solve our problems.
  • Discover Jim’s multi-faceted plan to save humanity and the planet: “Society’s Breakthrough.”
  • Jim explains why he thinks society is terminal.
  • Uncover the power of collective intelligence.
  • Jim reveals an awesome strategy for Choice-creating.
  • Understand why our current way of thinking can’t solve today’s problems. 
  • Duncan and Jim discuss the Wisdom Council process and dynamic facilitation and why they believe the world is ready for it. 
  • Facilitators are the future: Find out why.
Click here to download the transcript

Duncan Autrey: Well, Jim, thank you for being here and welcome to the Omni-Win project podcast. It’s great to talk to you. 

Jim Rough: so be nice. 

Duncan Autrey: Yeah. So, you know, I’m part of the reason I’m like, you know, wanted to really talk to you. I’ve people have been telling me, oh, you need to go talk, go to like Washington, go do one of Jim Rough’s classes.

I’ve sitting on your book for a while. I kind had, had forgotten that it was you. I didn’t put the dots together until I, I was preparing and I’m like, I have that book. So I am aware of your work for a long time and we have a lot of alignment. I mean, you’re one of the guests coming in here that’s like very much aligned with.

What I’m trying to do with the Omni win project podcast is trying to show a path for us to improve our democracy that can help us get to some sustainable future. And, you know, you’re thinking out a lot of the different angles. And so we’ll get into some of your things that you’re offering, but I wanna actually start with I found something maybe was when one of your workshops you were teaching about society is terminal right now.

We’re on the course to destruction. 

And so let’s just start with what makes you feel so sure that society is terminal. What are you tracking there that makes you realize that this isn’t working 

Jim Rough: well we’re trying to take a contract, a social contract that was written 230 years ago, 43 to 35 years ago.

So, and now we’re talking about the national case and it’s actually true the global case as well. And this, it sets up essentially the rules of the game. So, you know, here, here’s this constitution, this is what we’re gonna check in on see people following the rules about how we make collective decisions.

And then there’s the rule the decisions we make are basically policy and then our economics is following the rules too. So what that ends up with is a competitive mindset where we’re as individuals competing and, and, or, or individual corporations competing. And that’s, that’s not sustainable in the sense that now we’ve encountered the limits of our planet and our, of our country, really.

So. We can’t just continue to focus on our individual wellbeing and maximize individual wellbeing as though there’s this comp free and fair competition when we’re trashing the planet. I mean, it’s like trying to play football out in the church yard and tearing the yard apart. You know, I mean, we can’t we can’t keep playing this game like mentality.

And as, at some point we have to stop and pull back and think collectively and intelligently together about what we’re doing. Are we okay with this? There isn’t any overlay of collective intelligence. That’s the problem that I, yeah. 

Duncan Autrey: Yeah. I, when you talk about the, you know, us being in a game, like we’re in one of these, it’s almost like we’re treating our system.

Like it’s a sport, we’re in a game where someone’s gonna win and someone’s gonna lose and I expect every election that comes up I think about people watching a sports team and the difference is when I’m watching Oakland Raiders in the Seahawk explain or whatever and I see one of them win I’m on a route for one side, a root for the other.

I’m never under the illusion that they won sports, but it seems like in our politics, the Democrats Republicans are trying to win politics, you know, like once and for all, we’re gonna finally vanquish the other side and that it’s not, and, and we’re in this game but even just that idea of framing it as a competitive setup, which is like built into our system, the rival risk dynamics is the game B folks say is turning us apart cuz really we’re a team that’s trying to solve a project we all win or we all lose . Yes. Yes. 

Jim Rough: And so, and so we, to me, it’s this, our competitive system meeting the limits of the planet and limits of our society and there, so I’m, it’s more of a theoretical thing for me that obviously this can’t keep happening.

There has to be a stopping and thinking. And and I know it’s possible. I mean, you, you wouldn’t run, you know, if you had any small community just a few families in a community, you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t do voting. I mean, that wouldn’t be what you’d set up. You, you, you would set up a visit. We would visit every so often and talk and think, and there would be a caliber of talking and thinking that we would.

Trying to achieve. In other words, it isn’t just exchange of information. Not every thing is, you know, who mows the grass on Tuesday. It has, there has to be if they’re facing problems, we’re facing these huge problems. And so we need everybody’s involvement and attention and creativity, and we need the whole package in order to come up with answers that can work.

And we want answers that can work for everybody. We don’t have that system. Right. We don’t have that as a possibility in our system, it’s just completely removed and I believe it’s possible to transform the existing system into that other kind of system just by adding a conversation. 

Duncan Autrey: Perfect. So, yeah, let’s talk about what that kind of conversation looks like and, and.

And I appreciate your, just your distinction about the, the two systems, you know, that we can’t really make due solutions in the system. We’re not gonna get things passed. We’re not gonna, we’re not gonna pass the right laws. We’re not gonna whatever. So, and so you’re this, what might we add into the system?

And let’s talk a little bit about some of your, your ideas that 

Jim Rough: yeah, the, we can’t, we can, we can’t ask, you can make the best laws available and you can’t, it isn’t gonna work. We can’t, we can’t do it that way anymore. The whole idea of those solutions that our system offers, they, it isn’t a workable situation.

So the key piece is this ability to step back and think collaboratively and creatively and to face the problems. And to have a, a conversation where we come up with some kind of win-win answer that we all, like, that’s just basically the missing. We, the people conversation, the founders actually came close to that when they in the United States anyway, and we’re not talking globally yet, but they had a moment of you know, almost four months where they had a small group, 55 white guys.

Okay. No, you know, no native Americans, no blacks, no women, no non-property holders, I suppose. But, but they set the kind of thinking to be figuring they knew that they couldn. Have a vote. It wasn’t really gonna be about voting it wasn’t. They ostensibly were using parliamentary procedure, but they, they knew they had to have all the delegates.

They had to have all the, all the people actually, they needed all the states. They needed this holistic coming together and they had a guy named George Washington who I think held space. He was basically the first facilitator, as far as I dealt, cuz he did, he wouldn’t accept the job of being king. And so he just held space and and of course they went out in the taverns, they had their, their parliamentary light procedure, but everybody knew that this is no, we have to have unity here.

We have to come to some kind of unity and it has to be as much as possible. Win-win now I, I personally think they did an obviously they were, it was a morally problem. Problematic conclusion. But that was only because they didn’t keep meeting or we didn’t keep meeting as a people there wasn’t an ongoing let’s step back every so often and think together, but they did that kind of thinking once I think, and it sort of is a model for how this can all happen in society.

And so the magic sauce is the quality of thinking if you and I can, if we, if you and I can blow a whistle and everybody steps back and we can somehow facilitate the conversation so that we’re all facing the really important issues of the day and we’re being collaborative and creative and respectful.

And, and we’re seeking that win-win answer. If we can just do that on a regular basis, we’ve already changed the system.

Duncan Autrey: Wow, this is helpful. Cause what I hear about the, when in your reading, reading some of your materials, there’s this aspect of the repetition of the process. So taking this story, I mean, I hadn’t thought about this before, but that the process for creating the constitution or creating the United States was not the process that they weren’t following the process that they had laid out.

Instead, they were in a conversation where they all were trying to figure out the different pieces and they all wanted to figure it out together and they couldn’t leave anyone behind. Right. So they couldn’t, you know, let’s do this, but Florida, we’re just gonna leave out or we’re gonna just leave New York out because they’d lost the vote, you know, or whatever.

 So there had to be that work to find that compromise and to find the thing that really. Assist on something that everyone could get behind and was very clever, very beautifully written and amazingly durable document that they put together.

There’s this idea of like having this regular conversation, cuz after that they stopped having the collaborative collective intelligence conversation started implementing the, the system

Jim Rough: you and I were born into a system of thinking that didn’t have this collective intelligence. It didn’t have this creative collaborative. Well, I call it choice creating. I, I distinguished between decision making, which is what we got. There were decisions get made and you can do that. Just individuals voting.

I mean, you individually make your judgment, you make an individual judgment and somebody adds up the numbers and then we collectively have made a decision. That’s not what we’re after, but that’s what we got. The, the conversation of all of us trying to find out what’s best for everybody is the missing ingredient.

Duncan Autrey: So yeah, let’s stick with that. And we’re gonna come back to this choice, creating versus decision making piece. Was just recently thinking about, you know, how the public conversations project, when they first did their dialogue and they did it around abortion and, and so forth and in the eighties and, and they got all these people.

Pro-life, pro-choice all to be in this like very great intimate building conversation. And that group continued to do it, but clearly that conversation didn’t continue to happen. Right? So I feel like it points to like this conversation has to keep on happening. We have to continue to build the bridges.

We have to continue to affirm. 

Jim Rough: They don’t have any intent of coming up with an outcome that works for everyone, right? They have what they call what I call dialogue.

That’s dialogue. There’s no collective answer that comes from dialogue. People use the term all the time as though we’re gonna come up with some answer that works for everybody, but no dialogue doesn’t do that. That’s why I’m calling this type of thinking choice creating. That’s the kind of thinking where we come together as, and we face problems and we come up with answers that everybody is excited about, or that’s the ideal.

Or at least that we’re all, we’re all on board with we, and that’s a creative kind of thinking. It’s a, it’s a creative, collaborative thinking where, where we make progress through shifts or breakthroughs. And when you have a shift or a breakthrough, it’s entirely different way of reaching unity and conclusion.

I mean, an answer than decision making, cause decision making you vote and you, you got everybody on the other side is pissed off cuz they didn’t win. Right. But when you do choice creating and you achieve unity through a breakthrough, then everybody who’s different is an asset. We oh my God, thank God you said that different thing because we never would’ve gotten to that breakthrough.

So it’s a, it’s a process of valuing diversity. When you do choice creating and not necessarily anyway, when you do decision making. 

Duncan Autrey: Thank you. I, I appreciate this distinction and I don’t know if I told you this, but I took Rosa’s dynamic facilitation class. She came down here and I’ve done various kinds of facilitation models for those who are wondering, well, what do you mean by like coming up with something that everyone can get behind this choice, creating process?

For those who maybe never even thought of this. Could, can you try to paint a picture for us about what is possible or what it looks like to get it, to take people through a choice creating process rather than a decision making process? 

Jim Rough: Well, yeah, so when we, I didn’t do this, but the, they did in Austrias, it’s a fun example.

They wanted to have the citizens. They wanted a citizen involvement process on choosing for the city of breakin, what to do with the center of town, which was currently a parking lot. And they wanted to, there was a development project to get that to happen. And so they randomly selected. I think it was maybe 16 or so people from the community, and then you dynamically facilitate them to face this issue and hear the proposal of the people trying to developers. And basically what the group realized, what we do is have everybody talk and we hold the space in a way in dynamic facilitation so that everybody’s okay and everybody’s safe and whatever kind of, that way you can start trusting what’s bubbling up.

In other words, what, what your mind is presenting to you? It isn’t you don’t have to work with your ideas that you already have. You can just kind of trust what’s coming. And then the group can kind of come up with its own sense of things. And at some point, you know, people said, well, wait a minute, this, this what we want.

They have an, a shift. And I think the shift was in this case, what we want is the citizens of, of the community is we want to be closer to the lake. There was a, there was the city and then there was a road and a railroad. And then the park and lake was over there. So the city was separate from the, from the park and lake.

So they, we want this project to bring us closer to the, to the lake. And so they, that was their breakthrough was that this project should be doing that. And one of the ways they suggested that it could do that would be to have move the first floor of the project up to the second floor. And so have that be the, the main level and then have the rest just flow out on over the highway to the.

To the lake. So you could just walk down a set of stairs to the, to the lake. So anyway, when they presented that the, the wisdom council, this randomly selected group presented it to the community, which in this case was just the developer and the mayor and some city council members and that sort of thing.

Everybody looked at one other and said, yeah, that would be better. Even the developers. So it was like a, I mean, it was like a win, win, win, win, win. You know, we’re all on board with this. We don’t have to fight. We don’t have to have this fight over. Yes, no, against this project, which is our normal process.

We could just all buy a claim, say, this is what we’re doing and try and work on that. And that’s really, the idea is how do we add that part of the conversation that’s missing for EV all of this stuff about abortion, about you know, this role of the Supreme court, all these things. And if. If you and I can somehow set up this conversation using the wisdom council process, which I involves the random groups and the dynamic facilitation.

Well, then there’s a perspective of the whole system coming to unity about what we all need to do. And, and what truth is for one thing, we can’t even talk about truth today, you know, but here’s a way that truth can emerge. Oh, we all know it. This is what, here’s our story of what’s happening. And here’s what we want.

And here’s our strategy of what we, how we wanna get there. And then when they, the wisdom council in this case, this randomly selected group walks on stage and presents. They share a little bit about who they are. They share a little bit about the, what their struggle was and what they answer, how they came to it.

And the audience then turns their chairs and they talk. And they go, yeah, why aren’t we doing this? And so in very short order, you and I, by changing the nature of the conversation from decision making to choice creating, we’ve set up the prospect of us all being collectively intelligent together. And we haven’t even changed the system.

We’ve just, I mean, we haven’t made any ostensible changes. We’ve just added a new conversation, which in fact does change the system.

Duncan Autrey: Thank you. I appreciate that. And I love this example and cuz I think it’s, it’s very, it’s a good concrete, it’s a good concrete example of this but I’m gonna see if I can unpack some of the things or some of. Words you’re using and your process. And so I’m gonna try to describe your process and tell me if I’m getting it right.

So a wisdom council is a random selection of humans from the population and they are presented with a question that’s an open ended question, something to the effect of what do we wanna do with this parking lot? Or what do we wanna do with this? As opposed to here’s a bunch of menu options that you can choose from, or here are all the proposals and which one do you like the most and up vote ’em or download ’em, but actually just very open ended.

Let’s see what you think come up with. Yes. And then the dynamic facilitation process, instead of trying to get them through a process, Very much having each person kind of speaking and gathering and, and talking and talking and, and sharing. And it’s all the facilitator is making sure that every person is thoroughly heard.

And in this process, some collective intelligence emerges from this and after doing it for a number of days or a while they come up with something they’re like, yeah. And part of what happens in that is that in that collective intelligence, by sort of not having all the predetermined choices, they’re able to come up with a total lateral move that was different than anything that any politician or developer could have thought of on their own.

And then it’s shared with the, the public and, and so forth, and they get a chance to see what they think. But oftentimes given that this is an. By definition, diverse, random group of people. They came up with something, it makes sense for the larger audience. And is that a pretty good description there?

Very good. 

Jim Rough: And, and if you, it really is. And then if the process continues, so you randomly select a new group and then you randomly select a new group. So really the conversation we’re talking about, isn’t so much what goes on the little wisdom council groups, but in the whole system. So the whole system is in conversation now, then the little wisdom councils that we randomly select, they facilitate that whole system conversation.

And the, if you, for instance, so we do our best to try and keep the spirit of the small group and in the large system. And so if you were the one person that. Said, oh, wait a minute. These people don’t understand something, blah, blah, blah. Cause you usually get this. Most. Everybody says, yeah, why are we doing this?

Cause you randomly select anyway. But if you’re the one person that thinks, Hey, wait a minute, normally you would be ignored. But now we’re interested to know what you’re thinking. So it’s a, it’s a really inclusive process. Even for people who weren’t randomly selected, they’re just out there in the world and they have a response that’s different.

We’re we’re setting up a process. That’s that’s inclusive of them too, of 

Duncan Autrey: everybody. Yeah. And this is, I think Miki Kashton talks about the importance of the dissenters, right. And if you’re having this process and we’re trying to come up with something that everyone can get behind.

It’s actually important data when someone is like, actually, I don’t know if I like that. Cool. You’re important too. We wanna include you. So instead of the, just being the person that has to rail against the thing, cuz they didn’t get their voice heard that that voice didn’t gets integrated into the whole system.

Jim Rough: Yes, no, that’s right. We, but we’ve, we’re setting up the, the process. So like if you, maybe you didn’t think you cared, but once the wisdom council speaks and now you’re feeling motivated, you can write a letter of the editor. You can write a, you know, you might want to go talk to people. I don’t know. But so the there’s a motivating energy that gets established.

If you. You know, not on, in the, if you don’t feel part of things, there’s somehow we’re stimulating the energy of, of and we’re trusting that energy. We’re trusting. We’re where it’s going.

Duncan Autrey: And just to clarify, when you talk about the repeating of the process the, in the next round that we pull together a wisdom council from the city, let’s say they would be presented with different topic. So it’s not like we’re, we’re going through the parking lot again and again, they, the next time they could talk about what, whether to build a or the train or something.

I don’t know. Yeah. 

Jim Rough: Well, they’re really in charge already. Yeah. so the, they get to . They get to choose their issue no matter what, really the only. In fact, I wrote my book and I said that the wisdom council chooses the issue. But I was thinking in terms of an constitutional amendment to make this happen, now we’ve realized, oh, it’s the magic sauce here?

Isn’t that it needs to be a constitutional amendment. The magic sauce is the quality of thinking choice, creating that’s what makes this whole thing work. But it’s not the same. If, if it’s an amendment, then you everybody’s paying attention to what this wisdom council is gonna come up with because it it’s like, you know, the presidential election.

I mean, it’s a big deal, but if it’s just you and me in the corner here, setting up, setting this up, we probably need to specify. A a starting place for this random group. Like, here’s the, here’s a question and it gives us some leverage too. We can go to the city council or whatever and say, Hey, you get to pick the topic, you know, or the issue.

And it’s really kind of, for political reasons that we even come up with the idea that the topic gets determined ahead of time. And they don’t stay on it anyway. I mean, they, they can, but you know, some people misinterpret this. I, because if you have a deliberative council, then you gotta have the issue chosen ahead of time and you probably have the options specified ahead of time.

And you know, the people get it and they study back and forth and they come up with a recommendation. That’s not what we’re doing at all. We we’re just giving them the issue like climate change or something. They can start there, but maybe they discover that it, it’s not really about climate change. It’s about the system, our economic system.

So how do we change the, in other words, they’ve gone way off topic anyway. And, and they come, but they come with a story when they come and present to the audience, they have a story about how their topics changed and how the issue changed and where they ended up. And so it’s really a little bit like the audience is seeing the hero’s journey, if you will, right.

But you randomly select these people and then that’s us, that’s us. And they have a story to tell and they here’s. They say here’s where we got. This is as far as we were able to get on this massive, impossible seeming problem. And they’re done. But we turn our chairs and, and mostly we resonate to what they’ve done.

We’re, we’re kind of, we’re nodding, basically. This is, yeah, I can see this. And, but then we start talking too, but we talk kind of in a similar way. Yeah. We oughta add this piece and oh, did you know, we add that piece and gee, they forgot this. And in other words, we’re just maintaining an ongoing conversation and, and the difference is, is if you and I set it up, we probably need to specify the issue ahead of time.

If it’s a constitutional amendment that this is happening every year, maybe we don’t, maybe the group can just pick its own. 

Duncan Autrey: Yeah so part of what I’m hearing is that it can be possible to take like a specific topic or something like that and bring it to a group, but when we say it needs to be open, ended really needs to be open ended because to really be able to find the wisdom, it has to be able to go whatever direction it can go. Right. Like, because if, if we try to give constraints about, has that this much better has to think about this way, then we’re already imposing the system on this question.

So there’s different paths on how we can kind of figure out what that topic is. But I, what I hear in this is a process that can adapt to the complexity of wicked problems or monster problems as you call them, you know, but the, these impossible problems. If you can’t put too many constraints on how someone thinks about it, if you’re really gonna try to find an outside the box answer , you know, so yeah, 

Jim Rough: exactly.

Right. Cause the kind of thinking that decision making does is as reductive you say, oh, well we have to break this into smaller parts and we have to, you know, just weigh the different criteria and we blah, blah, blah. I mean, choice creating is a much more holistic integrative. We can go ti smaller too, but we also can go bigger.

The problem can get bigger. Like if you just thinking it’s climate change, no it’s the whole system or whatever. Now you now the problem’s gotten bigger and, and what’s curious is that the people feel more empowered. Even in other words, we’re following energy. And the energy goes somewhere. And at each time it makes a jump.

People feel more empowered, whether the problem’s getting bigger or smaller or whatever. It’s 

Duncan Autrey: kind of curious. Oh, I, I can imagine though that yeah, the, yeah, just being able to, I mean, even really just have agency of like, here’s where I’m thinking about this and I’m realizing that there’s something else going on here.

Like the ability to even say that and to, and to let the everyone go. Oh yeah. It is really about that, that, that, that vibration is important part of this. So there’s something about the goal here, right? Of course for you and me is, is to get these kinds of things out there more. Right. So part of my question is like, how are we gonna actually make this happen?

Like, what is it gonna take? And I. A specific one that comes up for me is that dynamic facilitation. There’s something that, that, there’s a, it’s a, it’s a skillset that’s very requires like an, like some intuition and a lot of high level of empathy and so forth. And one of the questions I have is how do do we get more facilitators that could hold this kind of space?

See, that seems like one of the hard, interesting, hard limits that we get to run across. 

Jim Rough: Yeah. Well, the way I, most people think we’re gonna go get lots of small wisdom councils in different cities and different places, and then the next level we’ll get it. And then the next level will say they want to, and that’s kind of what’s happening in Austria.

I’m thinking the opposite. Our global situation is a mess. I mean, it’s terrifying. Same with the national. It just takes one wisdom council process. One facilitator, you know, or two or small, some small number. We’re just, we’re talking about one conversation at the global level say, and, and then I think all the small cities and counties and whatever are gonna say, Hey, I want that too, but we’ve been trying to go, you know, trying to go the other way is hell on earth because people it’s each to sell it first to a city is a big deal to just start it globally.

There isn’t anybody to resist. I mean, well, we really just need money at this point. We need money. We need media support. We need a few people that get it, how important it is and what, what we’re doing. And some DERs a few dynamic facilitators, but so I. My approach is not so much to build this big network of DERs cuz I, I tried that.

I mean, I’ve been doing that for a long time and it’s, it’s hard. People walk out the door and they, they want clients and there isn’t enough energy out there to get them to, you know, they can’t earn a living whatever. And so they go and get a real job. I, I want to me, the answer here is to just get enough of us with money.

 So we need to get, we need to get it started just the project started and I think then people will be interested in dynamic facilitation and starting to realize, oh, this is a different way of being in the world.

This is a different kind of. You know, to, to live this way is so completely different because you’re not, you’re not held by the vision of the founders. For instance, in the United States, we, we have a certain, they set up a thinking process, which was cool based in the enlightenment, you know, kind of with rational thinking is the ideal and critical thinking.

And these are good. This is great, but there’s more kinds of thinking than that. And, and we have to, you know, there’s creative thinking and transformational thinking and on and on, and that we we’re contained in this box of thinking here, they sort of had their meeting and decided how we were gonna think into the future.

No, we, we can’t do that. That way of thinking isn’t enough to deal with today’s problems, 

Duncan Autrey: not enough to deal with today’s problems as for sure. So I wanted to unpack this because this is actually,

I enjoy the moments when I get to have my edge conversation with your edge conversation, you know? And so trying to think about how do we get the world to start using this and, you know, and one approach that crosses my mind is for me to go talk to my local Oakland city council representative and see if I can get him to do it in just our neighborhood.

Right. You know, and then maybe I can get the other districts in the Oakland city council to be interested in it. And maybe we can then get it part of Oakland and then maybe Oakland would be excited and in San Francisco would wanna do it. And then Cincinnati would look at it and go, whoa, we should do that too.

And then all of a sudden it starts spreading and that’s one approach. That’s like the 30 year approach. right. Like that’s, that’s if I wanted to just build this slowly for the rest of my lifetime, I maybe by the time I’m 80, I you know, would having national attention. The other approach, let’s have like a reality show.

I mean, like let’s get a super high profile process where we get the random selection of folks and it’s, you know, they go through the process and they come up with something and it’s high profile. It’s produced enough that it’s actually getting in, you know, breaking through the, the noise and people go, oh, wow.

I want that. And then all of the cities are states and you know, can say okay, why are we not doing something like this? This is a better idea cause one of the huge problems I think is we have solutions to the issues we’re looking at, but we’re not using them. And that’s either because people are not aware that they exist, or if they think that they exist, they don’t believe that they work, but somehow we gotta do a demo.

That’s like a large scale demonstration, that’s great. 

Jim Rough: No, I, I don’t even why, don’t not sure why we need a demo. If we can just start it, who are we trying to impress with our demo? You know, I mean, we’ve done lots of demos, many, many demos. I mean, the one I told you about, I mean, Austria has adopted the wisdom council process and two of its states into their constitution and they’re doing a national demo right now.

So the demonstrations, I liked the process. I mean, I want that to happen. Good. You know, and, and that’s kind of what we did. We demonst some demonstration projects and they they’ve picked it up mostly it’s happening in Europe, now, Germany and Austria, and possibly in Santa Cruz fall five county commissioners, supposedly are on board with trying when this fall.

So we’ll see. But all of that is inside the box makes the box better. And as soon as people realize it’s gonna take us out of the box to another system, there’s a danger of them pulling back. And, but if we could get some funding. I don’t know, crowdfunding. I’m not sure. You know, and just started nationally.

I, I don’t wanna do this. I mean, I want other people to get this and go, holy smoke. We’ll take that off your hands, Jim. That’s great. But but I’m just realizing it’s, it’s, that’s a slow path if we could. And my, actually my, my real ideal would be to find a group. And I think I’ve found one of rich young people who have time, but don’t have meaning.

And I, I think they’re, they would, they would love to hear about this and to, to become a, the group that did this, you know, that set this up cuz the money is a big deal and, and we need to get a younger people behind it and. . And I think that if, as people they got trained up, if we had a tight group like that, they could really I mean, it would be exhilarating.

I think, to be working on something, this, it is exhilarating for me, but I, it should be for them to be working on something that really has the prospect of transforming the, saving the world for one thing and transforming it to be a, something that we can begin to thrive in. Again, I mean, our population, supposedly what I read is that we’re, you know, eight or 9 billion people and we, our planet can sustain, you know, something less than 1 billion people.

So we have a real struggle coming up here. And if we know how that’s gonna work out, if, if we don’t get intelligent fast. So to me, it’s, it, it, we need to, we need to start the process soon.

Duncan Autrey: I’m gonna see if I understand the the distinction right here, you know, I was seeing a demo but really when you say like, actually let’s just do it it’s, I mean, the difference between the demo was really kind of one off high profile thing, but the, the actually just go ahead and just starting to do this is doing it at that high level like large scale level and, but then continuing to do it.

So we just, every month we keep on coming back. So it’s, I, I just really appreciating the reminder that this cycle of it is so important, right. That we have to. And then again, and then again, and again, and again, and again, we’re not trying to get to some fixed outcome or we’re just like, okay, good.

We did. And we solved it done. And I think the part of proposal is that this would be, that could be parallel to whatever the existing structures or it has to be really, but the real trick then is just that, you know, we can get, you know, we can get the 20 people together.

We can have the conversation, we know that that could happen, but no one’s gonna know about it. Right. And it has to sort of be seen enough for it to really get people’s attention. How much would it take you think what to plan 

Jim Rough: I wish somebody would sit down and figure it out. Exactly. But I mean, I wave around 3 million, something like that. It isn’t that much. Really. Yeah. I mean, what do we, I mean, except, I mean, I’m, we, a lot of us are volunteering time. We should be paying, you know, the people are, a lot of the people should be paid.

You know, our, our coffers are empty right now. That kind of thing. The, so but the, we have to fly people to one location. We have to go through this random selection. I bet we could get a volunteer organization to do the random selection, you know, a Gallup or a, I don’t know what one of these polling outfit.

The expenses aren’t that big. If we had a media partner, if we had a social, if we had young people from one of the social media companies, you know, for instance, they, if they could get behind it, they have I mean, they could actually make money. I don’t wanna put it in that model, but it’s really about it.

Isn’t that big a deal. And most of us really do care about the planet and here’s a way to save it. So we just have to help people, a few people get it. Oh my God, if we do this, then there’s a chance of transforming everything. So we get a few people that are in that space that I keep telling people what they, the, the response I want from people is holy shit, this has to happen.

You know, I mean, rather than. Oh, thank you, Jim. Good luck. You know, I mean,

I know that isn’t working. 

Duncan Autrey: that’s I know, I know exactly what you mean. Upcoming challenge in this project that I’m trying to put together here, is that yeah, exactly. That people are like, oh yeah, I love that idea. Sounds great. Tell me about it later when it happens, you know, I’m like, well, no, this is gonna have to be a collective effort and I love this dream about like how do we really get this to happen? So I’m just really thank you for engaging in this, within that level with me, I was thinking about this last night with my, my, my sweetie. And, and I was like, yeah, like, I don’t know, but million dollars, like, again, it’s like not that much 3 million, for sure.

Like, we, this isn’t like a high tech you know, high resource thing. And we do need to somehow figure out how we can start creating this future. Really what we’re doing is we’re creating the process that holds the future in a certain way. I mean that, because there’s, it’s all, it’s all process everything’s process.

you’re trying to think about solutions, whatever. We’re not really like the solutions that we have. That we can offer are just processes that are not, you know, they’re not fixed solutions. They’re just ways of lubricating the system here, you know, like call it a Hallion ion. Yeah. Oh, thank you for that. I was meant to ask you about the pronunciation of Hallion.

Yeah, thank you. call it. 

Jim Rough: Hallion because it’s not a solution. Like there’s a whole set of solutions out there that, that people are working on that I, I, I have to hold myself. I mean, they, they are imagining that it can change the world, but they, to me, it’s so plain that they can’t. In other words, just this whole big movement now, lots of ’em around.

If we could just get. You to have we consciousness and then get a critical mass to have we consciousness, then everything’s changed. No everything isn’t changed. We’re still in the same system. And, and it doesn’t, you know, like a definition of a system I think is that if you change all the elements of the system, you have not change the system.

And so, but there’s so many people thinking about this colle, you know, critical mass phenomenon and, and the, the higher levels of consciousness and so forth. And somehow that translates to, to collective consciousness. I don’t think that’s true to me that what we have to do, we, and I there’s a lot of Wes one.

We is just us, just us have to facilitate we all of us into one intelligent. It’s like a new evolutionary leap. We, the people that can. Say, oh, well let’s set up a system that works let’s and that conversation, that possibility the demonstrations that we’ve done, the many projects probably over a hundred are to show that it works.

I mean, this does work. So it’s just that it’s kind of hard for people to, to say, oh my God, it’s the system or, or, oh my God, it’s the process. They don’t have that process awareness. So they think, oh, how did we get those people together? You know, oh, wasn’t it a miracle? And we got such great people together.

Well, yeah, we did. But really it’s the system. It’s the process that we used that made it work, makes it work every time. And it’s not seeing that. And so you do a demonstration and people aren’t prepared enough to see that it’s. That what we’re doing, they can’t really understand it yet. So I think you know, our, our idea that we’re talking about right now is just getting enough people that get it, like you’ve been to the seminar.

And if we have people that get it and realize what’s possible here, and very few people who, even who have been to the seminar, get it, that we can apply this globally. And it’s a different thing. I mean, they, that’s a real hard step for people to go to. And I, I went years and years and years, and I, I, I really thought I was probably going nuts because you know, you know who, who will save the world from all the strange people who think only they can save it.

That’s on my wall here. . 

Duncan Autrey: Yeah, it’s one of the big watershed moment in my life was a friend scene. Oh my gosh, Duncan, like, you’re gonna change the world with all of this. And you know, and I’m like, oh no, no, no, no, no. This is a recruiting mission. I cannot change the world. We are, this is a collective process here.


Jim Rough: facilitating and just as one facilitator, and you’re doing that right now, one facilitator can facilitate a whole room full of people to a higher level of thinking. It’s amazing. It’s a systemic thing. And all we need to do is go to radio shack and get an amplifier so that one person can facilitate the whole global system.

I mean, it’s a, it’s, that’s the model of change, not the model of change of just, you know, you talk to your neighbor and your next neighbor and you get a network. And I mean, that’s an important model of change, but it. We’re in desperate shape and the model of change that is far more quick acting and more effective as this facilitative model.

Duncan Autrey: Yeah. Yeah. It’s I don’t know. It’s a book that I read when I was a high school, I think, but the, this people were trying to get from like one location to the next and they had a, it was like in the nineties, a computer that could figure out the best route to get to the thing. And they were trying to, they needed to get there in a certain amount of time.

And their computer was just running to sort of come up with the fastest route. And they were like, just put a straight line in there, tell it to do a straight line, you know, and, and cool. We’ll get there. And it’s like, wow, that means we’re gonna have to go through some really crazy stuff. And what I hear is that

our system right now is kind of using like this laws and structures and like let’s do the amendments and the votes and the, and the process. The whole bureaucracy is trying to figure out all these things. The issues we’re dealing with are dynamic complex, wicked problems, monster problems.

And and that system is never gonna be able to adapt to this it’s and, and not won’t be able to address that. So part of it’s just like bypassing it. And then this process, the offering kind of like different than, you know, our current system, but even different than the deliberative, you know, democracy different than the citizen assembly is a is a dynamic complex, nuanced process that can match that.

So that, and that’s where the cycle comes into. Okay. Here’s something we figured out and here’s something we figured out. I just like pulled up this like definition of like the wicked problems here, you know? And it’s like, every problem is a symptom of another problem. Like there’s not gonna be any end there.

Aren’t gonna be any finals solutions not gonna get to the final outcome. There’s not like the one answer. There’s many different answers. There’s not gonna be a stopping rule. We’ll never know when we’re finished with the problem. And so in order to deal, I mean, any of the big issues, climate immigration, guns, justice police, global trade, guess what?

We’re gonna be talking on that for as long as humans are here, these are all gonna always gonna be issues. So we need a process that can continue to keep on pointing out the things that we need. And that’s the only thing that can start to address these kind of huge issues we have to deal with.


Jim Rough: Yeah. The wise democracy, the, this what I call society’s breakthrough to me, there’s four social innovations that I’m talking about. One is choice creating the quality of thinking the other is, you know, dynamic facilitation, how we can reliably evoke that. The other is the wisdom council process, which works really, really well for systems and large, you know, like organizations and stuff.

Now it’s the same thing really is to talk about society’s breakthrough, except it applies to the national case or the global case, which is actually totally different. So it’s, it, it, it upends everything. We, we now live in a different world and that has to happen. We have to make that transformation what’s happening now.

I think Duncan is that people are living. They wanna, everybody wants to live in world one. The world, we were born into the one that’s supposed to be there. The one with, you know, grandchildren and children and families and, and sports and shopping trips and blah, blah, blah. We don’t that world is, is on its way out.

That world is gonna collapse very soon. Some of us have to step into world two and, and sometimes we can’t do it all the time. We have to live in the normal world too, but, but some of us have to stand over here in world two and set up the system of thinking that transcends everything that happens in that other box.

We have to set that choice, creating whole system, one ongoing whole system choice, creating conversation. Needs to be facilitated into existence. So we, we have to gather a few people to stand in world two periodically. Anyway, we have to live a, we also have to live the normal life and sit there and realize that we are setting up a, a system of a, a totally different system.

Even though we’re not changing anything, everybody gets to stay in world one. They get to stay in the matrix if you will, and try and live their lives. But we’re gonna set up the conversation. That’s missing the collective intelligence part, and it’s not an option it has to happen. And that collective intelligence, like you say, it’s an ongoing conversation that stays in place that we’re all in it.

And that is how. We get to survive and thrive. We get to be intelligent on an ongoing basis, dealing with these monster. I call ’em monster, cuz wicked has a different definition in my mind, but monster problems that seemingly impossible to solve that, you know, science will tell you they’re impossible, we’re screwed, but we always can get collectively intelligent.

And I mean, choice creating is about solving impossible is all problems. So we just haven’t started thinking yet, but this and this. So, so what I call society’s breakthrough is applying the wisdom council process to the global situation, which means, or the in the national situation, which means it’s redefining you and me.

I, I get ego death for all of us. You know, it, it it’s like I don’t get to be the person I was before and, and others don’t, but. We can’t anyway, we’re, we’re gonna physically die if we don’t, we don’t do something, you know, 

Duncan Autrey: so yeah, I just, these last couple days were recurring topic for me, has been around like,

we’re on the track to go off the cliff. Right. And some people might disagree with that, but we’re really, I mean, it’s, we’re going there. It’s whatever, lots of different ways we can measure that. And, and we also know that we’re trains not working or our system. We don’t have any ability to work on it.

It’s interesting that there’s hesitation to try something different, right? Like let’s with no downside, there’s no 

jim rough sync-1: downside. 

Jim Rough: Nobody can find the downside. 

Duncan Autrey: No, no, no risk alternative process. Like, let’s just see if we can come up with an answer to this because, and it’s interesting that like, it’s somehow it’s hard to convey and like, no, really we really it’s time to start thinking outside the box, like right now.

And then of course I love it. There’s no downside. Right. And it’s like, I mean, yeah, we spent those 3 million bucks and we’d got everyone to have all these conversations. They came up with a bunch of great ideas or if they didn’t, that’s why they didn’t. And then I was like, okay, well, but that’s very unlikely given the way that this process works.

Jim Rough: Yeah. When I say no downside, I mean, we’re not taking anything away from what we have. Right. We’re just, we’re just adding the missing conversation.

There’s a conversation that isn’t there yet and it doesn’t, and, and at first I’m sure it’ll just be a few people with others, not paying attention, but pretty soon people I think will get it that if, when you have a thing, like people resisting government mandates about vaccines or everybody upset about the Supreme court getting, you know, going off the rails it it’s like, yeah, here.

Here’s a way to deal with that. You you’ve used up all your answers in the box. There’s nothing you can do about the Supreme court. You’re screwed, but here’s an answer. This can transform the whole mess and same thing with the COVID mandates and everybody, not everybody upset about the mandates, whatever.

Here’s a way to deal with that. We can start cocking and come up and we can tell government what, what to do. It’s, it’s just the we’re offering such a big set of goodness and benefits and whatever that people just dismiss it. They can’t imagine it can be really that good. So what I’m just trying to find is people like you, a few of us that could stand there and go, oh, shoot, this has to happen.

And, and then. You know, I mean, we got lots of observers and lots of good luck, good luck people. But we, we just need a few that realize this has to happen. And then we just do whatever it takes to get it to 

Duncan Autrey: happen. Yeah, absolutely. Because then the part that I look forward to is like, the dream is when people are like hearing something from some politician or someone saying, no, I came up with the answer and being like, come on, man.

How many people did you talk to about this? Did you do the process where everyone and all the stakeholders got to be involved, or if you know, any piece of legislation that citizens will be like, hold on, this sounds like it’s only gonna be serving part of our population and we don’t want those kinds of solutions anymore.

Or to say, holy cow, this would be a good thing to use for the wisdom council process. You know, like, Hey, let’s, let’s do the wisdom council for this, because this is really hard not to crack. We don’t know what to do with it cuz the tenor now is, oh, it’s all broken.

We don’t really know what to do . So anyways, I’m on board with getting this message out there. You’re on board with getting this message out there 

Jim Rough: everybody wants this conversation. Yeah. They’re desperate for it. And so when there’s no collective thinking process right now.

It’s just these competing special interests, making money from the media, politicians, whatever. But the collective thinking process, if you, and I can somehow facilitate that into existence, even though it’s really, really small at first, it seems to me that when you get a big issue, you can go to the government and say, Hey, you want to deal with this resistance to the vaccines or whatever, just, you know let’s take your issue.

We’ll take that issue and, and we’ll work with it. Here’s a way, if the randomly selected group comes up with some answer that we don’t even know what they’re gonna come up with, but they’re gonna come up with some answer that’s people are gonna nod to and it’s it, it might involve reworking the whole nature of the constitution in that way.

I don’t know what it would be, but, but they’re gonna come up with something and people around are gonna go, yeah. Why aren’t we doing that? And one, the Supreme court could notice that like, oh wait a minute. Do we wanna follow the dictates of the. We the people that existed in the 18th century, or do you wanna follow the dictates of the people that existed now?

Duncan Autrey: Here. right. Exactly. And we’re just getting us to be very clear that the system is inadequate and not gonna do the trick and understand why that is right.

It’s really not working and why it’s not working. We have other options. Jim, there’s something you said there about, you know, like me being new into this or relatively new. So that was a question I was gonna ask. So, you know, you’ve been at this for decades and I’m, you know, jumping into the fray, at least in a more public way, you know, trying to bring awareness to, to what’s possible here.

So I’m like, okay, first thing we’re gonna do is just kind of weigh out all the different options that are on deck here, you know? And, and, and then, you know, figure out what are the questions that are still out there and where are we stuck? And like, how are people needing to grow? And then, you know, the next layer of this project will be cool.

So we have these different options. How might we like start? Like, I’m cur I’m looking forward to putting people into conversations with each other and, you know, and we were talking before, like, it would be really great if like, if. You and some folks from the game B that are recognizing that we have rules of a game that are gonna kill us.

And they’re trying to think about the rules of the game. They’re trying to think about the rules of the game for the future. And actually Omni win is from their world. That’s a Daniel Schmo murder’s term for what the opposite of the rival risks rules, you know, and like the rules of game B would be an Omni win culture and, and cool.

And that’s great. I don’t know if you know how to do it. 

Jim Rough: fantastic service. If you could help bring this to the Daniel Schmack Berg philosophy, people, the radical, what do they call medical something? 

Duncan Autrey: I mean, there’s like the liminal they’ve kind of people call ’em the liminal internet. There’s the intellectual, dark web is kind of what the, that world there of all these people that are trying to think about.

Have used heterodoxy as they’re thinking, right? Like how do we have not Orthodox thinking, but understanding the different perspectives. And there’s, it’s a tight little world there though, where they’re all kind of talking to themselves a bit. So I’m excited for, I really want to do some of this bridge building and that 

Jim Rough: would be very helpful cause I don’t have enough of a, you know, momentum on the society’s breakthrough side.

Now the momentum is happening in dynamic facilitation and, and these other things, but not on the society’s breakthrough side, which is where I think this is where that’s, what I’m putting my energy into for the rest of my life, I think is society’s breakthrough ha has to happen. 

Duncan Autrey: Wow. Yeah. Wow. Jim, thank you so much for this. And I, I can tell this just the beginning of meeting conversations so thank you for doing the work and for putting your in time and energy on the line to really like, get this out there and thank you.

Jim Rough: Okay, good. Thanks. Good. Appreciate it.


Jim Rough bio pic

Jim Rough

About this episode’s guest

Jim Rough is a social innovator and Director of the Center for Wise Democracy. He is a speaker, seminar leader, and author of the book, “Society’s Breakthrough! Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People.” As a consultant, Jim developed “Dynamic Facilitation” and “The Wisdom Council Process.” He and others teach seminars on these tools all over the world. Jim’s primary focus these days is on “Society’s Breakthrough,” an additional social innovation for solving impossible-seeming problems nationally (e.g. healing the national divide) and globally.

Connect with our guest

Guest Resources

Center for Wise Democracy

The Center for Wise Democracy offers a set of four social innovations by which to facilitate “all the people” to work creatively together as “We the People” and achieve breakthrough progress on the most urgent impossible-seeming issues.

The Four Social Innovations:

1. Choice Creating

Choice-creating is a form of thinking where groups face impossible-seeming issues and reach clarity on what is the situation and what to do. Choice-creating is “opposite” to decision-making (See chart of comparison)

2. Dynamic Facilitation

Dynamic Facilitation  is a way to reliably facilitate groups into the spirit of choice-creating, where they face difficult issues and achieve win/win unity.

3. The Wisdom Council Process

The Wisdom Council Process is a way to facilitate large systems of people into the spirit of choice-creating. It combines an ongoing series of randomly selected people, Dynamic Facilitation and opportunities for the public to hear and consider the results. Using it a large system of people (e.g. community, corporation or nation) can face and solve big problems together (i.e. “wise democracy”)

4. ​Society’s Breakthrough

​Society’s Breakthrough is when we apply the Wisdom Council Process to society itself, global or national. Here’s how a society can transform itself toward collective consciousness — i.e. economics, governance and civic life.

A “Holution” to Problems at all Scales

Our society faces MONSTER problems, which seem impossible-to-solve, but which must be solved. They seem impossible because they are not solvable from within the existing System. They are caused by our System. The good news is … with a slight adjustment to the underlying structure of our System, we can facilitate our System to transform itself so that all these problems can start to go away! (See “A Holution to the Human Predicament“… a blog article from Stanford sponsored MAHB)

The Wisdom Council Process really works, and it can be used to safely facilitate the necessary transformation of our System.
It’s a way to facilitate all the people… at each level of society:

Essential Wisdom (a free online course)

The Wisdom Council Process can applied nationally or globally to solve society’s biggest problems. We call either of these two applications: “Society’s Breakthrough“. … However, most people do not find it obvious how this could work to yield the immense benefits that are promised. This free 5-part video seminar: “Essential Wisdom for solving society’s biggest issues” is designed to help people “get it.”

Jim Rough on the New Democracy Podcast: “Wisdom Councils and Dynamic Facilitation”

Topics Discussed in Episode

Monster Problems & Wicked Problems

Jim Rough talks about MONSTER problems, which he describes as those that “seem impossible-to-solve, but which must be solved. They seem impossible because they are not solvable from within the existing System.” Duncan thinks of these as “wicked problems.” 

Martin Carcasson, professor and Director of the Center for Public Deliberation at Colorado State University, does an amazing job of explaining the role of deliberative engagement to solve “wicked problems.”

Here is an article of his: “Tackling Wicked Problems through Deliberative Engagement”

This three-part series from Martin about Basics of Deliberative Engagement begins with a great description of wicked problems:

About The Omni-Win Project

The Omni-Win Project is a multimedia effort to raise awareness of the myriad existing and emergent opportunities to improve our democracy and heal our political culture.

Our mission: facilitating the healing and evolution of our democratic systems and political culture, so that we can co-create a future that works for everyone.

Meet The Host

I am omnipartial: I am biased in favor of the success of everyone and the whole. I believe it is possible to improve systems of communication and interaction in ways that will allow humanity to thrive and evolve through our complexity and diversity.

My purpose in life is to support an omnipartial revolution. How? By helping the world understand the fractal nature of conflict and how we can transform conflict into a positive and inspiring experience. We are all in this together. I firmly believe we can do this complex dance through life with much more grace and beauty.

I am specifically committed to transforming how we work together in teams and organizations and how we experience conflict and collaboration in our democracy.

Fractal Friends

Duncan is also the host of the Fractal Friends podcast. An exploration of our self-similary across our diversity.

Fans of the Omni-Win project podcast will enjoy this collection of episodes: https://www.fractalfriends.us/transforming-politics about Transforming Politics and Healing Democracy

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