Providing a path for others to follow brings more people to the Moment of Oh!

Leave Tracks

We have already discussed the leader’s responsibility to help community members through the stages of community decision making. Leaders often arrive at their Moment of Oh! long before many of the community members who will eventually care a great deal about the decision. Leaders will help the decision process tremendously if they are able to share the path they took to get to the Moment of Oh! and beyond. We call this leaving tracks, and we believe this powerful principle is too often neglected.

Imagine that you have several visitors coming from different locations. Each visitor will take a different route to get to your home. Some already know how to find you, and others will need detailed directions. If you live in a hard-to-find location, you would not assume that everyone could find his or her way without your guidance. You would provide detailed instructions that began from each person’s unique starting location. Rather than focusing on where you live, you would focus on the path each person needed to follow to get to you. This same principle applies to providing guidance for people to find their way through the stages of engagement for community decisions.

The principle of leaving tracks applies not just to leaders but to everyone involved in the community decision. I might learn more from my neighbor who regularly attends public meetings than I would from a public official because my path to the Moment of Oh! might be much closer to my neighbor’s than to the official’s. If my neighbor can walk me through his or her own changing attitude toward, understanding of, and commitment to the issue, then I can more easily follow his or her tracks to the Moment of Oh! and beyond.

At a community-wide level, a network of tracks is necessary to make it easier for others to join the community-decision process. The tracks for some will be different from those of others because different individuals and groups will have different reasons for caring about the decision, and they will have different ways of accessing information about the issue.

A practical example of leaving tracks might be a series of articles in the newspaper that tells a story from various constituents’ points of view—what information was useful to them as they considered the issue and how their views evolved over time. Or a process might be designed that asks informed and involved people to hold neighborhood meetings to share their perspectives on the issue. A web page can offer tracks to accelerate engagement in an issue with a simple video to tell the story.

Common Missteps:

  • Forget how long it took you to understand the issue.
  • Assume others’ path to understanding will be exactly the same as yours.
  • Fail to create processes for community members to follow others’ paths to the Moment of Oh!

Key Considerations:

  • Have you documented your own path to understanding the issue?
  • Have you documented others’ paths to understanding the issue?
  • Have you built a process to help community membersfind their paths to the Moment of Oh!?

— Previous book post: The Moment of Oh! – Core Principle: Take One Step at a Time

— Next up: The Moment of Oh! – Applying the Core Principles

Greg Ranstrom and John Blakinger are authors of the new  book The Moment of Oh! a guide to help communities make tough decisions.