There is now a way forward. It can be found in the new science of Dilemma Analysis (also known as Confrontation Analysis), which has been built to specifically tackle this problem.
Developed in the early 2000s, Dilemma Analysis gives you a way to:
● firmly organise, structure, and focus your thoughts
● clearly understand the feelings and motivations of everyone present
● develop a clear step-by step strategy for a way forward
If you dislike woolly thinking, you will appreciate the firm clear structure and way forward Dilemma Analysis gives you. But it's a structure that does not assume people will necessarily believe one another or abide by any rules, and fully takes into account all the emotion and historical baggage that is usually involved in such things.
Dilemma Analysis gives you a way to develop clear razor sharp thinking, enabling you to cut through the fear, emotions and confusion that surrounds decision making under confrontation.
Dilemma Analysis gives you confidence in your plans, and the knowledge in approaching others that you know what to do.
That's why I do WORKSHOPS
Over the last millennia, by introducing scientific tools and processes, mankind has made great progress in many areas such as engineering, medicine, chemistry and agriculture.
But there is one area where, despite everything, success still eludes us. We do not have a scientific method to help us understand, plan for and anticipate the actions of others in confrontations.
Instead we overoptimistically rely on "gut instinct", usually combined with just sitting round a table and asking friends or advisors what they think should be done. This is just as true in our business and personal lives as it is in international affairs.
The evidence is in. There is a plethora of science showing that just relying on these "judgement based methods" is little better at anticipating the future than random chance.
Some of the monumental disasters caused by relying on judgemental methods are illustrated on this page. And alongside the large political failures shown are millions of smaller business and personal mistakes, broken contracts and marred relationships, also caused by not thinking through how others would react.
What can be done?
Munich 1938: Peace for our time: After what he thought was successful negotiations with Hitler, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returns with an agreement he hoped would avoid war. But he had trusted Hitler more than he should have, showing that not all problems can be solved by negotiation alone.
Chamberlain was not short of advisors.
USA 1967: Vietnam war protests: When it went into Vietnam, the US government had not anticipated that the war would eventually prove to be so unpopular. The war became unsustainable not so much due to miltiary pressure from the enemy, but due to domestic pressure at home.
The United States government was not short of advisors.
Iraq 2003: The fall of Saddam Hussain: George Bush and Tony Blair had hoped that the war in Iraq in 2003 would be brief and decisive. But despite a swift military victory, the aftermath of the invasion proved much longer, more intractable and expensive than had been anticipated.
George Bush and Tony Blair were not short of advisors.
A Decision Workshop in progress: Participants take the roles of the parties involved in the political interaction enabling strategies to be tested and refined.
Please note: I am now working at the Defence Science and Technology Laboritories (Dstl), I am still working on Dilemma Analysis in this new capacity.