Re: Groupthink
From: Saoirse (
Date: Fri, 16 Jul 2004 07:27:32 -0700 (PDT)
Norm, I'd respectfully submit that some of what you are seeing is an
interpretation of the events from your personal perspective. My
interpretation might differ.

I agree with you that groupthink is a dynamic that occurs in organizations,
and is something to be concerned about and to actively discuss.

However, I believe that an activity at the beginning of a meeting is not
necessarily designed to condition folks for groupthink. Rather, in my
comm'ty, these activities are designed to help transition people from the
hectic pace of their lives into a focus on what we are doing in THIS place
at THIS time. It's also intended to help people relax a bit, and to feel
connected to one another. One of the reasons we choose comm'ty is to feel
connected to one another. Being connected to one another could increase the
danger of groupthink, but in and of itself is still a value we share in my
comm'ty and worthy of some time and attention in our meetings.

I suspect that it is human nature to want agreement and to want harmony. It
is a basic need identified by Marshall Rosenberg in his model for
Non-Violent Communication. However, I share your implied frustration with
the reluctance to really dig in and discuss the pros and cons of a certain
proposal. Actually, my understanding of consensus is that we are not
debating so much as using our intelligence and our perspective to identify
potential concerns on behalf of the comm'ty. To fail to do so is a
disservice to the comm'ty, a failure to hold the commonweal as a shared
value. To rush too quickly to agreement just to keep the peace is not true
comm'ty but pseudo-comm'ty. Many people have written about this.

So -- in my opinion -- consensus is not just about reaching agreement, but
about being thoughtful and intelligent and taking the time to sort it
through to the best of our ability, with the best thinking we can summon at
the time. We may not make a perfect decision. We may change our minds later
on, with more experience.

You use the term "debate," and of course debate means different things to
different people. To me, it casts people into the position of trying to
persuade or convert others to their thinking. It implies black and white
thinking, a right and a wrong. I'm more inclined to view consensus as
finding the gray area in-between, the place where there is more than one
possible solution, and we choose what seems to be right for us AT THIS TIME.

As for blocking, I cotton to Carolyn Estes' view that blocking is done only
with great reluctance, likely less than three times in a lifetime, and only
when it absolutely necessary and after a lot of discussion. Blocking
consensus is a gift to the comm'ty, but only when done from the position of
the deepest belief that to move forward with the proposal "harms the
comm'ty." Not "I disagree" or "I don't like this" or "I have strong personal
reservations" but "I believe harm will come to the comm'ty if this proposal
moves forward."

Having said all that, I bow to our online experts on consensus and remind
you that I have my personal biases just like everyone else. If something I
say rings true and/or contributes to the discussion, great. If not, so be
it. I don't need for anyone to agree with me, though it is nice to be


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