Many times, we think of things in terms of all or nothing, black or white, yes or no. It polarizes people and makes it harder to get things done. Organizations could be more productive if they thought of things in smaller chunks — opting to make a policy or decision that affected some of the situations instead of all.

An example involved allowing dogs in city parks. It was “no, no, no” for multiple rounds until the proposal was amended to allow Fido in some of the places. Now, people can walk their dogs in numerous locations and the major parks are still off-limits, preserving a dog-free zone for those who prefer.

Another example is in Saugatuck, Michigan which outlined a downtown zone of several city blocks where people could walk freely with alcohol. Signs indicated where the “social district” ended, alerting the revelers that the rules were different on the other side of the street. It’s likely that an ordinance wouldn’t have passed allowing open alcohol everywhere, but by setting boundaries it worked for the businesses, tourists, and residents.

The next time you have a controversial proposal (and aren’t they all these days!), think about how you can create segments as a compromise position. Having some changes isn’t everything, but it’s far better than none.

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