Discussions, debates, particularly those that involve a need for some sort of formal result (a decision for instance) – all involve an interaction between parties and a system of rules. This interaction is mediated by an interface, that is some sort of embodiment of the elements of the interaction in a design. The “face” of this interaction may be a person (the chair for instance), or the design of a computer screen. It may be a physical space, a room, or a table, or a mobile phone interface.
It is hard to overemphasise the importance of the design of this space, in determining who takes part, and the quality of the discussions that take place. Woody Allen said “the world is run by people who can be bothered to turn up”, and the people who are bothered to turn up, as we know, are those that feel at home with committees, bureaucracy and the written word. If we want new people to engage, then we need to design new forms of decision making space, that are inviting, human, and above all not dull.
There is no more effective way of discouraging the participation of imaginative, creative and disruptive forces than to make the style of the engagement as boring as possible. While we need a certain amount of stability in our processes, this is best achieved by making binding decisions efficiently, and not by excluding new and disruptive ideas and participants.