Blog Post

The Law of Two Feet

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by David Gurteen on 22 February 2003



The Law of Two Feet
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Posted DateSaturday 22 February 2003 11:04 GMT
Posted ByDavid Gurteen
CategoriesConversation; Dialogue; Open Space Technology
PeopleHarrison Owen

I have just been reading about "Open Space Technology" and came across the "Law of Two Feet" which I instantly took to.

We are all often in meetings or discussion groups where one member tries to dominate the discussion and effectively wrecks any possibility of an open conversation or the full participation by all the members of the group. Typically, some members sit in silence waiting for the session to end while others get into a heated argument with the protagonist. But there is a third way. Here is the law:
Sometimes it happens that overly zealous participants feel that their ideas are so important or powerful that everybody in a particular group (or even in the whole conference) should pay attention and listen. This one has to be nipped in the bud -- carefully. The way out is not to directly challenge the person, but rather to remind the assembled group of the Law of Two Feet. If everybody truly wants to listen, they should do that. But if that is not their desire, they have two feet which they should use. There is no need to argue and shout, just thank the group and leave. Egomaniacs quickly get the picture when everybody leaves.
Now this wont work in every circumstance but it will work in many. If the leader or facilitator makes sure that this law is communicated as 'acceptable practice' at the start of the meeting or discussion then it will work that much better. I like the concept and am looking forward to the opportunity to put it into practice.

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
David Gurteen

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