Ritual Dissent Method

Ritual Dissent Method

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Workshop method designed to test and ameliorates proposals and plans by subjecting ideas to a “ritualized” dissent (challenge) or assent (positive proposals). The Ritual Dissent is a forced listening technique with the purpose of encouraging participants to improve ideas and proposals through a discord based technique.

The basic approach involves one spokesperson of each group presenting his idea or plan to another group, which will listen to him in silence. After the presentation, the spokesperson turns his chair facing the back to the audience in order to avoid any eye contact, and listen in silence while the group critically attacks (dissent) or provide alternatives (assent). The approach of not facing the audience de-personalizes any criticism so that the meaning of the attack is not a personal one to the presenter, but is critically to refine the proposal.

To obtain more iteration and diversity, the technique is generally used in a workshop with a minimum of three groups and at least three participants in each. [1]

Toolkit.png Conducting a Ritual Dissent

Step by Step

  1. Ask each group to seat at round tables or circle of chairs. The tables or chairs should be arranged to enable groups to move to another table in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction.
  2. Ask the groups to work in parallel on selected issues. A complex problem should be handled by small safe-fail experiments with detailed analysis and expertise.
  3. Invite each group to appoint a spokesperson. The prerequisite to be a spokesperson is to have “a resilient and robust personality and not bear a grudge”. A time deadline is set to prepare the presentation (minimum 5 minutes).
  4. Stop the work three minutes before the deadline and inform the spokesperson that he will have three minutes to present his idea.
  5. Request to the spokesperson of each group to stand up at the end of the deadline.
  6. Tell each spokesperson to move to the next table in a clockwise direction and take the vacant seat without saying or doing anything before further instructions.
  7. Let start the presentation of the spokesperson. He has to present his ideas to the panel receiving the proposal in total silence. At the end of the presentation, the spokesperson turns his chair around so that his back is to the panel.
  8. Invite the group to replay and attack ideas with full and complete verve (dissent) or come up with better ideas or improvements (assent). The review panel is instructed to play the part of the disenchanted and cynical user who will harshly criticize a good idea without being necessarily fair or reasonable. Ideas emerging from this process are often more resilient than other consensus based techniques.
  9. Ask the spokesperson, once the panel finished to replicate, to leave to a central area away from the group. This is a recent addition to the method: if the spokesperson talks with the group the learning method would risk to be compromised. When each group finishes replaying, send the spokesperson back to his group to talk about what they have learnt.
  10. Repeat the cycle as many times you want (new spokesperson with a different group). Eventual new iterations could lead to multiple perspectives and might refine the final outcomes.

Job Aid

Pdf.pngConducting a Ritual Dissent


  1. www.cognitive-edge.com (30 November 2009),www.kmworld.com (30 November 2009), www.vpscin.org (30 November 2009)