How to Get at Underlying Values and Beliefs

By Steve Zuieback · Posted Thursday, October 31, 2013

Getting At Values and Beliefs

One of the most frequent dilemmas in groups and team is that people get stuck in their positions. This may occur with one person in the group or cliques that have differeing positions. One of the best tools in the facilitator or consultants toolbag is a process developed by Chris Argyris and Donald Schon called the Ladder of Inference. You can click on the image or click here to view this video.

The video consists of 3 parts. The first part explains the model, the second part is a demonstration of the model, with the third part discussing the non-verbal cues to pick up about your permission level and rapport with a person being guided through the process. View whichever parts you might find helpful.

In a nutshell, the Ladder of Inference is a set of sequential high quality questions that allows people to gain deeper insight into the underlying beliefs and values that drive certain behaviors, positions, and actions. The facilitator would use the ladder to subtly guide a person through their position, starting with the conclusions or assumptions behind their postion, and eventually reaching the core value that sits behind the position. 




Process Tips and Reminders:

The process should be used when the facilitator determines that the group is stuck with differing soutions or strategies, and demonstrate that those holding these differing postions have credibiltiy with the group.

The goal is to identfy the underlying belief. It may not take all the questions to surface the driving belief, but make certain that the identified belief is truly compelling and specific.

It may take going thorugh the process for each strongly held position. Since this can take considerable time (10 minutes per position) the facilitator runs the risk of losoing permission. Be certain that this is a hight stakes issue.


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