Once a sufficient percentage of community members with multiple perspectives and interests have reached the Moment of Oh!, the urge is to act immediately, to jump right to Let’s Go! But as individuals begin to recognize the unanticipated impacts and costs of the Stage 4 of the engagement curve: Whoasolution, the tendency is to pull back from the urge to act. Leaders can help by continuing to remind people about their broad consensus around what needs to be addressed while not pushing too fast toward a single solution. This slowing down of the process is very useful for the community, allowing time for multiple possible solutions to be designed and vetted before choosing the best option.

Whoa! is also the stage when people who have not already become involved get very interested. They see that something is going to happen, investments will be made, and things will change. In a sense they have their own Moment of Oh!— “Oh, people are serious about doing something. I better get involved if I want to have a say in this!”

Because new people are attracted to the community conversation at this point, there is more reason for the leader to move forward deliberately, but slowly enough to bring people onboard with the process. It makes no sense to disregard people who haven’t previously shown any interest. In fact the leader should welcome new participants as an indication that the process is moving forward and on track. The leader should expect late arrivals to the process and create easy access and paths for participation.

Whoa! is also the time to put extra effort into recruiting diverse participation. The integrity of the community solution will be at risk if important community players have not participated in the process. If open invitations to the process fail to attract needed participation, then personal outreach by community leaders may be necessary.

Characteristics of a person in the Whoa! stage:

  • overwhelmed by the reality of the situation
  • annoyed by latecomers to the community-decision process
  • impatient with the process (especially if a particular solution is favored)

What a person needs to proceed to the next stage:

  • a clear timeline and process for deciding on a solution
  • to see how their interests and concerns inform the possible solutions
  • confirmation that the divergent solution possibilities will converge
  • clear solution criteria

How the leader can help:

  • Confirm the person’s interests and concerns and how they connect to the possible solutions.
  • Remind people of the messy, divergent solution development process necessary to arrive at a sound solution.
  • Continually remind people of the process and timelines.
  • Help the community define criteria that will be used to assess the possible solutions.

— Previous book post: Stage 3: Oh!

— Next up: Stage 5: Let’s Go!

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