Friday, December 18, 2009


What with all the hubbub surrounding Climate Negotiations in Copenhagen and Health Care Legislation in Washington D.C., it is frightening how a single person (or small group of people) stamping their feet and shouting NO! can derail literally life and death considerations.

So what does all that have to do with exhibit design? Simply this --- sometimes a democratic (or team-based or community-focused) design process can't work. Sometimes one over-sized ego or obstreperous individual will block any forward progress.

So what can you do, either as a design team member, or an administrator? While I'm a big fan of the defenestration of boneheads, that isn't often feasible, so instead you can take a page (or three) from the Climate or Health Care Negotiations:

1) Look For Common Ground
Try, really try, to find some common ground. Are there any points to agree on? If so, start from there and see if you can begin to move toward consensus. If not, you can move to Step 2.

2) Divide And Conquer

Some people are just disagreeable and/or unreasonable, and no well-considered discussion will change that. If the design or project impasse really comes down to one or two people, simply divide the work up so that the "chunk" the cranks work on is not essential to keeping the main design project moving forward. If this doesn't get you past the speed bumps, consider Step 3.

3) Go It Alone

Think of Bill Gates on world-wide health issues, or Al Gore on climate change. Both have decided to become passionate champions for their respective projects, and avoid naysayers impeding their forward progress.

Is it possible in your organization to run some design projects where one "project advocate" becomes the key decision maker and the ultimate "breaker of deadlock"? Does every design project need to be run democratically, and more importantly, are the end results of consensus truly better design?

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