Re: Always being afraid of the worst case
From: Howard Landman (
Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2000 10:46:16 -0700 (MST)
> There is a personality type which consistently does the worse/extreme case
> presentation,and  which really disrupts group work. They are sort of like
> Eeyore, in Winnie the Pooh, the "It will never work, we are all going to
> die" types. They can drive a group crazy with unrealistic fear mongering and
> worst case what if's. This can tie up decision making because you have to
> debunk every extreme case fear, which is a huge waste of time and energy,
> and can really demoralize a group fast. In the worse cases, people just drop
> the issue because they don' want to go through all the work to reassure the
> worse case scenarios will not happen.

Hmm.  I found this interesting because in a sense I make my living being a
professional Eeyore.  I work designing integrated circuits.  My current chip
project has something like 20 million transistors on it, and if even one of
them is hooked up wrong, the chip doesn't work and has to be done over at a
cost of hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.  There are quite
literally hundreds of different ways to screw up, and you only need to miss
checking one in order to fail.  In this business, as Andy Grove says, "Only
the paranoid survive."  I think it's almost impossible to be paranoid enough!

And yet, I don't find myself acting this way (very often :-) in cohousing.
Sometimes I'll be the one pointing out a possible flaw or danger, but I also
sometimes end up being the one to debunk an irrational fear or make a simple
cost vs benefit comparison.  And mostly I just try to sit back and shut up
and listen, until I understand what everyone's concerns are.

So I think "Eeyore-ness" is context-sensitive.

Something that interests me in *both* work and cohousing settings is the
problem of how to get/enable a group to reach the best conclusions and
make the best decisions of which they are capable.  There have been many
studies of this in work situations; some techniques (e.g. "Delphi") are
known to be better than others (e.g. one person decides).  The additional
problem in cohousing is how to get the group to decide to operate in a
way that promotes the best decisions!  Even that goal is not shared by
all members of the community - some would rate "no one gets upset or feels
left out" as being more important than any notion of correctness.  This
approach is, of course, vulnerable to "squeaky wheel syndrome", where one
loudly insistent person can dominate the deliberations; but the underlying
idea, that each member of the community is important, cannot be lightly
dismissed since it lies close to the heart of cohousing itself.

Any thoughts on this?

        Howard Landman

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