In the movie, Twelve Angry Men, a jury must decide whether or not to reach a guilty verdict and sentence the 19 year old defendant to death. At the beginning of the play, eleven jurors vote “guilty.” Only one man, Juror #8, believes that the young man might be innocent. He must convince the others that “reasonable doubt” exists. One by one, the jury is persuaded to agree with Juror #8.
The film was produced in 1957 but I only stumbled on it a few weeks ago while looking for a good rental movie. Now, it is on my list of "see often" movies. I have much to learn from it.
The drama is a beautiful show for how to bring a diverse, non-engaged group of people into a conversation that allows each person in his own way to challenge his assumptions and authenically change his vantage point. This kind of process is at the heart of Group Genius.
Juror #8, against all odds, asks questions and plays 'Spoze with the other jurors making sure that each of the men are brought into an environment of care and listening. The young boy being tried has had every bad break possible, including a lawyer appointed by the state, who simply did not care if he lost the case. He just assumed his guy was guilty.
The movie started with 11 jurors against one and the one, Juror #8, was not even sure of the boy's innocense. He only claimed there was reasonable doubt which meant that he was not guilty for sure. With one question and one test, Juror 8 began the process of getting the others to begin the process of thinking for themselves rather than to assume that he could give away their vote without careful consideration.
One question led to someone else's question and slowly the group came together to ask real questions of each other ... ones that mattered not only to the boy but to each of the jurors. It was a prime example of the MG Taylor Axioms: 1) Everything that someone tells you is true. They are reporting their experience of reality. 2) To argue with someone else's experience is a waste of time. 3) To add someone's experience to your experience--to create a new experience--is possibly valuable.
These three axioms unfolded over and over throughout the 90 minute film which in the drama was the better part of a day.
And in the end, most of the jurors left feeling that "WE" found the boy not guilty. Each played a part and changed their vote only when to do so was authentic, not because others pressured them to conform.
Of course I wish politics could have this form of dialog. Our world would be so much better. But, my message here is for all of us as facilitators of Group Genius to engage and learn from Twelve Angry Men.