Although the U.S. lost its bid for the World Cup, it did score a big win for collaboration and democracy. Back on Saturday, June 26, Holly Kriger and I spent the day in an exhibit hall in Chicago linked virtually to 19 states and thousands of other people to help lead the largest national town hall meeting in history.
More than 3,500 of us discussed the challenges of our federal budget and what should be done to fix it. It was an inspiring event sponsored by AmericaSpeaks, a non-partisan advocacy group devoted to making the voices of all Americans heard.
Those assembled closely match U.S. demographics. Their recommendations will be presented to, among others, the budget committees in the House and Senate.
During the process of leading small group discussions, we both learned that:
• Dialogue transforms. People were influenced by each other. Sometimes their views changed, sometimes they didn’t. But it was always helpful for those on opposite sides to really listen to the perspective of others.
• Trust matters. People trust leaders who are transparent, accountable, and focused on issues and results, not political back-biting.
• Information and feedback drive solutions. Being linked with laptops and voting technology allowed us to see immediately how people across the country were responding, voting, and struggling through the issues. This immediacy fed the discussion.
These lessons apply to the work we do with Herman Miller customers every day. Who knew that a day focused on the federal budget could be so inspiring?