The Art of Truth-Seeking Through Consensus

The art of truth-seeking through consensus seems to be a lost art these days even though it is needed more today than ever before. The art of truth-seeking through consensus is about informing impactful action that enriches lives and addressing obstacles that block well-being. The art of truth-seeking through consensus needs to compete with other forms of consensus that can manipulate people into behaviors that end up eroding well-being. This post, inspired by the podcast interview with Beatrice Briggs (episode 16 at, explores the definition of truth, different forms of consensus, and examples of truth-seeking consensus.

The art of truth-seeking through consensus is about informing impactful action that enriches lives and addressing obstacles that block well-being.

Valerie Patrick

There are many definitions of truth which leads some to say there is no such thing as truth. Of course there is such a thing as truth – it is true that you are reading these words right now. Let’s consider four different definitions of truth and what they have in common. The first definition of truth is a biblical definition as follows: “Truth is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory, and being of God….the self-expression of God” ( According to this biblical definition, it is God or some other divine entity who determines what truth is and we discern this truth through our spiritual connection with this divine entity. There are three additional definitions of truth that come from philosophy ( One of these definitions, our second definition of truth, is the coherence view of truth: “a belief is true if it “coheres” or is consistent with other things a person believes.” In other words, if many of our beliefs are consistent with one another than they are more likely to be true. Another of these definitions from philosophy, our third definition of truth, is the correspondence theory of truth: “there are a set of “truth-bearing” representations (or propositions) about the world that align to or correspond with reality or states of affairs in the world.” In other words, truth is viewed as facts based on proof that a proposed scenario actually occurred or that a statement can be represented in reality. The fourth and final definition of truth is the postmodernist view of truth: “describe truth not as a relationship outside of the human mind that we can align belief to but as a product of belief.” In other words, truth is what we perceive and believe.

While the above four definitions of truth are very different, truth, at its very core, involves a decision of what is true and what is not true. Decisions are rarely made without the influence of other people. In all four definitions of truth, there is a role for other people to play. For example, to understand the will of God or other divine entity, you need to learn how to connect with the divine entity and how to interpret those connection experiences. This learning is done by reading what others have written about their experiences and learning directly from other believers and practitioners. Both the coherence and postmodernist views of truth involve our beliefs and it is other people who introduce us to and help shape our beliefs. For the correspondence theory of truth, we need the experiences and knowledge of others or that we learned from others to assess truth. Regardless of your definition of truth, engaging with others helps in finding truth. In addition, truth-seeking involves consideration of several different perspectives whether based on beliefs or facts.

Truth-seeking involves consideration of several different perspectives whether based on beliefs or facts.

Valerie Patrick

Consensus, like truth, has been defined in different ways. In addition, consensus, like truth, involves making a decision. Four definitions or forms of consensus are described here.

One form of consensus is achieving a common understanding. For example, The Copenhagen Consensus is a product of the Copenhagen Consensus Center which is “a think tank that researches the smartest solutions for the world’s biggest problems, advising policy-makers and philanthropists how to spend their money most effectively” ( The Center’s Director, Bjorn Lomborg, explains in his TED talk (, that the approach is to identify the best solutions for the world’s top challenges and then prioritize these solutions based on the best return on money spent towards the solution. To create this list of priorities, the Center brings in top economic experts for each of the solutions to perform cost-benefit analyses together with those knowledgeable about the solutions. The Center then hosts forums in which topics are debated and a final consensus is reached in the form of a prioritized list of solutions most worthy for investment ( The Copenhagen Consensus is an example of a common understanding from an economic perspective of the world’s top challenges.

A second form of consensus is majority rule. In majority rule, a decision is made by taking a vote. Typically, information is provided and debated before the vote is taken. However, the result of the vote determines the outcome of the decision. Majority rule is really a contest with winners and losers. Therefore, majority rule invites the behaviors associated with contests and the natural human desire to win. For example, the behaviors of incentivizing others to vote a certain way before the meeting takes place and the behaviors of not supporting a decision in both overt and covert ways for those who lost the vote.

A third form of consensus is the united front or a feeling of unity by those who have the same interests or goals. This form of consensus often involves enlisting others to a decision that already has been made by showing how the decision aligns with the common interests or goals of the group.

The fourth form of consensus is “an idea or opinion that is shared by all the people in a group” ( Beatrice Briggs describes this form of consensus in her book An Introduction to Consensus as follows: “Consensus is the way a group of equals makes decisions. The process rests on the fundamental belief that each person has a piece of the truth.” In this form of consensus, the concerns and interests of every person in the group are addressed and the decision is the result of an inclusive group process that creates a solution that all are willing to support outside the group.

Four hands together team work. Hands of different colors, cultural and ethnic diversity. Business matching. Connecting puzzle elements. Make a puzzle on green background. Vector illustration

Consensus is the way a group of equals makes decisions. The process rests on the fundamental belief that each person has a piece of the truth.

Beatrice Briggs

Now let’s examine these four types of consensus in terms of truth-seeking: consensus as common understanding, consensus as majority rule, consensus as a united front, and consensus as shared by all in the group. Consensus as common understanding has the downside of being consensus from a limited perspective. There may be times when a limited perspective is warranted; however, finding truth involves several different perspectives. Consensus as majority rule has the downside of a sub-optimal decision since the perspectives of those who lose the majority have not been incorporated into the final decision. The narrower the margin of victory in majority rule, the fewer perspectives have been incorporated and the lower the likelihood for finding truth. Consensus as a united front also can limit the number of perspectives involved when a few make decisions for many and then convince them to go along with the decision because of their shared interests or goals. This leaves consensus as shared by all in the group which has the greatest likelihood for finding truth as long as all the perspectives needed for truth on the topic of interest are included in the group. This is because this last type of consensus involves a process that includes and incorporates input from each person in the group.

Three unique examples of truth-seeking through consensus are described below.

One example of truth-seeking through consensus is a facilitated process that is described by Beatrice Briggs in her book An Introduction to Consensus. As described on the back cover of the book: “The consensus process is a decision-making method based on values such as cooperation, trust, honesty, creativity, equality, and respect. These days many people use the word <<consensus>>, but few understand how to implement the process with integrity and skill.” In the book, Beatrice shares step-by-step instructions for how a skilled facilitator implements a consensus process for a group. The book is based on her experience implementing the consensus process with many civil society organizations, government agencies, international NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and some companies in the private sector.

A second example of truth-seeking through consensus is demonstrated by an artist collaborative called Consenses that is the brainchild of singer Sally Tayler. Sally Taylor described the process used to create the first exhibit sponsored by Consenses in a TED talk ( Sally began with an image that she divided into 22 pieces. She then gave each of these 22 pieces of the image to 22 different musicians and asked each musician to express their piece of the image in a song. Next, she gave each song to a dancer to interpret the song through movement. Next she gave each dance to a painter to express the essence of the movement in a painting. She then gave each painting to a perfumer to capture the essence of the painting in a scent. This process continued to poets to capture the essence of the scent in their art form, to chefs to capture the essence of the poem in their art form, and finally to sculptures to express the essence of the food in their art form. Sally described this process as over 150 artists around the world participating in a “global game of telephone through the senses.” The final step was giving the 22 chains to a designer to interpret each chain as a whole and create a physical space for the art to live in. This physical space became the final exhibit which toured for 4 months in 2014 and was very moving for over 7000 visitors. This is an example of a process that captured pieces of truth from over 150 artists and shared that truth with over 7000 people. The exhibit also provided the opportunity for visitors to express and share what they felt and learned from the exhibit.

A third example of truth-seeking through consensus is the “Hole-in-the-Wall” approach to learning for children discovered by Dr. Sugata Mitra, Chief Scientist at NIIT ( Dr. Mitra spoke at the annual conference for the Association of Talent Development in 2015 about this work. The work started when Dr. Mitra’s team carved a hole in a wall that separated the NIIT premises with an adjoining slum in New Delhi, India and inserted a computer at the right height for access by children. With no help from adults, Dr. Mitra observed that the children began teaching each other how to browse within 8 hours. After 2 months, the children said they needed a faster processor. A 6-year old girl said “there is something inside that thinks.” Dr. Mitra observed that unsupervised children given access to a safe internet environment within 9 months will go from zero competency on the computer to a level of computing competency equivalent to the average secretary in the West. Dr. Mitra and his team did another experiment to see if Tamil-speaking 12-years olds can learn the biotechnology of DNA replication in English by themselves. Dr. Mitra told the children that it was very difficult and they would never understand it. When he returned in 2 months, one of the children said “apart from improper replication of the DNA causing genetic disease we have not understood anything else.” Dr. Mitra went on to do additional experiments to optimize the learning environment. He learned that the presence of a friendly mediator, like a skilled facilitator, improves self-organized learning. Given a challenge, a friendly mediator, and internet access, children can work together to learn just about any topic. This is truth-seeking by consensus at its very best because of how open children are to learning.

The art of truth-seeking through consensus is needed today because society’s challenges and needs continue to grow in complexity which means the pieces of truth needed to address them are scattered across different domains of expertise. In addition, different perspectives not just in expertise but in experiences and approach are needed to fuel the creativity needed to address these challenges and needs. The true path forwards needs to consider facts and beliefs held in the brains of the right mix of people to tackle a given challenge. Majority rule, common understanding, and a united front our outdated forms of consensus. Deciding the true and best path forward means embracing consensus as an inclusive and collaborative process. The power of people working effectively together to tackle challenges never ceases to amaze me and may it do the same for you.

Deciding the true and best path forward means embracing consensus as an inclusive and collaborative process.

Valerie Patrick

Put an end to the blame game of why more women aren’t in leadership positions (it’s the culture, it’s unconscious bias, it’s gender discrimination, it’s not having a mentor, it’s not leaning in, it’s not negotiating your salary, and so on) and take control of your career. The “Science of Success for Women Workshop” on Saturday July 9th 2016 in Pittsburgh from 1:00 – 4:30 pm will arm you with the key tools and techniques needed to develop the skills of success revealed by recent neuroscience and behavioral science results. Register here: See more detailed information below.

Fulcrum Connection believes that barriers to working together can be eliminated to unleash high performance in any group or organization. The way Fulcrum eliminates these barriers is to understand and apply behavioral science and cognitive science findings to real-world organizations. Fulcrum provides content, tools, techniques, and services based in science and on results achieved in organizations to achieve peak performance. Contact Fulcrum Connection LLC to learn more ( or 412-742-9675; ask about our first-time client offer.) Fulcrum Connection LLC provides training, coaching, professional speaking, and professional facilitation services using structured and proven processes and tools to help technical business professionals drive strategy development, sustainability, innovation, and problem solving. Fulcrum’s expertise is the people engagement part of technical project management.

Sign up for Fulcrum Connection’s Quadrant II newsletter to receive a white paper on five ways to improve creativity for innovation ( and stay up-to-date on Fulcrum Connection’s blog posts, podcasts, new product offerings, and new service offerings. Plus, get a copy of findings from a recent social skills survey by adding your input here: You can also get added insights on social skills for the workplace by listening to the Science of Success Podcast on i-Tunes ( or Stitcher Radio. To learn more, please contact Valerie Patrick at Fulcrum Connection LLC (412-742-9675 or

Science of Success for Women Workshop : July 9th, 2016 (1:00 – 4:30 pm, Carnegie Library Allegheny Branch): register here:

For the price of a piece of clothing, you can learn techniques that can improve your earning potential and position within your organization!

Hi my name is Valerie Patrick. I’m the instructor for the Science of Success for Women Workshop coming to Pittsburgh on July 9th. I was fortunate enough to progress from an entry-level PhD chemical engineering position to reporting to Bayer Corp’s CEO as the top North America executive for sustainability over my 25-year corporate career. However, this was only possible because of the many mentors, both male and female, and both internal and external to Bayer, that I had over the course of my career. This workshop provides science-based tools for the most important interpersonal skills that women need to have impact in the workplace today.

The idea for this workshop came from recent research I learned about on my “Science of Success: Social Secrets” podcast in both neuroscience and behavioral science. Specifically, scientists have learned that female brains are structured to promote different behaviors than male brains and vice versa. I explored these findings further and compared them to what I learned from my mentoring experiences plus what five Pittsburgh executive women told me they learned from their mentoring experiences. I discovered that the mentoring lessons of female executives were around four key behaviors that men’s brains are structured for based on science. In addition, I realized, while watching a TED talk by four-star general Stanley McChrystal and other men on leadership, that the leadership lessons of men are around the four key behaviors that women’s brains are structured for based on science. Therefore, the behaviors needed for leadership by both men and women are a balance of both the male and female behaviors that our respective brains have been structured to exhibit. The good news is that these behaviors can be learned. Not surprisingly, these behaviors are all about interpersonal skills.

I have participated in four different types of mentoring with several different mentors. The tool for being mentored from the workshop is based on my mentoring experiences plus takes into account whether you have a male or female mentor. This is because, not surprisingly, the way a women exhibits the behaviors that come more naturally to men is different than how a man would exhibit them, and vice versa. The course also provides a compilation of tips on how women can exhibit the behaviors that come more naturally to men. This compilation includes the techniques that have worked for me, for the five executive women I interviewed, and for referenced researchers and practitioners. The course also provides my LEARN tool to help prepare for being mentored. I’m a “serial” workplace learner myself. Over 10 years, I held 5 different jobs that I had no training or background for so I had to be on a steep learning curve. The LEARN tool is my technique for learning in the workplace. I am confident in this tool not only because the technique worked for me, but when I attended the Association for Talent Development annual conference last year, a learning professional shared her research for fostering a learning culture. As part of her presentation, she presented the pillars for self-directed learning which aligned quite well with my LEARN tool. The course also provides a mentor tool based on training I sponsored for a bottom-up mentoring program that I co-created with a colleague to foster inclusion in the workplace. The mentor tool is mostly for the role play to try out the tool for being mentored, but also takes into account whether you are mentoring a male or a female.

Finally the workshop includes my influence tool and Team Collaboration Assessment.© The influence tool I have used on several occasions with great success. My most memorable occasion was with a man who had a higher rank than me in the organization at the time. In my first meeting with him, he initially refused to talk to me and insisted on talking to the male executive I was representing. I calmly explained that I was the subject-matter expert and we set up a follow-up meeting to address the concerns he had raised. I used the influence technique in my follow-up meeting with him and was blown away with how well it worked with someone that was initially very resistant but who ended up being one of my biggest supporters for the program. The Team Collaboration Assessment© is my gift to participants and is based on my experience working in over 200 teams over my corporate career. The assessment comes with an explanation of the science basis and an “answer key” that lists recommendations to address the short-comings identified by the assessment for the team. A fellow professional facilitator based in Mexico is having the assessment translated into Spanish and will let me know of her experience using the assessment once the translation is completed.

There is a pre-read for the workshop to provide some context called “Diversity, Culture, and the Glass Ceiling” by Eleanor Wilson who has a Masters degree in Organizational Leadership. There is also a pre-workshop survey for participants to better understand their learning style based on the research of neuroscientist Dr. Dawna Markova. In the workshop, participants will also be doing an exercise to determine their thinking talents, also based on the work of Dr. Dawna Markova with her collaborator, Angie McArthur. This exercise will help participants identify their mentoring needs.
The LEARN tool and Team Collaboration Assessment© by themselves are worth $500.00 (see, and the course also provides my two influence tools, a being mentored tool taking into account gender, a mentor tool also taking into account gender, and the compilation of tips for ways women can exhibit the four behaviors that come most naturally to men. All this for only $125 and about four hours of your time on a Saturday afternoon (July 9th 1:00 to 4:30 pm; reserve your spot by registering here: Those interested can reach me at 412-742-9675 or to ask questions and learn more.