The importance of consensus for Engineers and Designers: Learnings from Pope Francis and Francis Bacon

Through my work experience and my time mentoring and talking with engineers and designers alike, I often encounter the frustration from both the young and the experienced that consensus makes it difficult to make the “right” decision in their work environments. These are smart and talented individuals that bring great vision and skills to execute complex projects. But, they often hit a brick wall when realizing their ideas and throw in the towel citing lack of agreement in the organization as the major roadblock. What they often refer to here is that there are people in the organization that do not see their viewpoint. Their bosses, customers, peers or other stakeholders start becoming a hindrance.

I have always thought of consensus to be not a bad thing. It can be difficult and frustrating; but, it’s a necessary traction for the organization to move ahead. Pope Francis in a recent speech said in reference to consolidating differences that this is “an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good” It’s vital in an organization that all stakeholders are heard and consensus is driven for the people to move ahead as one. Getting consensus is necessary for people to hear each other, consider various points of view, debate, and improve ideas. It’s an essential force for unity.

The philosopher Francis Bacon wrote ‘We must obey the forces we want to command’. I find this quote deeply grounded and pragmatic. To influence and drive decision one has to show empathy and understanding of the people that constitute the organization. The lesson from this quote is to use politics as a tool to challenge ourselves to re-look at the world and re-frame the conversation so that it can be more inclusive. It’s with this inclusion that we designers and engineers can innovate and create to affect real change.

Organizations when bound together can be immensely powerful in realizing big ideas. I hope these learnings from Pope Francis and Francis Bacon of using politics to drive unity and influence can be helpful in you realizing your next big idea.

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