Using Information in Multi-Party Decision-Making

At Spark, we strongly believe in the importance of integrating new information into problem solving dialogues. The participants in the room can represent all the perspectives but still lack significant information, particularly when a problem is large, complex, multifaceted, and has existed for a long time. Research processes, whether to bring more perspectives and voices into the process or to surface potential solutions or even help experiment with possible solutions, can fundamentally improve the quality of the decisions made by the groups.

However, the use of information within multi-party dialogues is complex, leading to disputes around information reliability, the appropriate ways to interpret it, and when it should be used. While some decision-making processes struggle primarily with how to incorporate facts into the exploration of solutions, other processes have to deal with active disputes about the facts themselves with different interests in conflict over what they see as the truth.

There are two overarching approaches to bringing new information into a decision-making process, both of which are techniques for decreasing disputes over the legitimacy and accuracy of the information:

  • Joint fact-finding: rather than each interest bringing their own information, they work together to identify facts they both trust can be a useful process;
  • Neutral third party: a third party can provide information when the dialogue participants find working together to find facts too challenging.

In addition to the method for surfacing new information, decision-making processes also need to plan for how to introduce the information and help participants both process and use it while making a decision.