Re: Groupthink
From: Dave & Diane (
Date: Fri, 16 Jul 2004 08:07:37 -0700 (PDT)
Hi Norm, et al:

If you have community meetings that begin with process activities that last up to 45 minutes before business is introduced, you definitely have a problem. Although I would not jump to the conclusion that the activities are designed to create "groupthink" they do create another problem--somnambulance. Who is going to be able to think about business and process all the variables that need to be processed if you've waited up to 45 minutes just to get down to business?

There's always a tug-of-war between the process people and the business people in cohousing--I don't think you'll ever get away from that. We haven't hit upon a solution either.

The process activities should, as Saoirse said, "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 should be a simple opener such as a game or a round-robin to ask simply "what's new with you today?" This helps people "put the door behind them" so to speak.

Do you have a facilitation team? It seems to me that you need to take a hard look at how items are getting on the agenda. Has there been enough work done "vetting" the items so that you can make sure different points of view have been incorporated into the proposal? If you haven't done this work, and you try to rush the proposal through the general meeting by smothering opposition and thoughtful debate it will always come back to bite you in the butt.

Do you have a steering or coordinating committee that helps determine what items need to get on the agenda and when? It helps to rank things in terms of "A,B, and C priorities" so you don't cram too much stuff on the agenda.

Has your group come up with a "blocking policy" (ours hasn't). In other words: when is appropriate or appropriate to block consensus? How is the blocking person handled? We had a workshop with an experienced facilitator a couple of years ago in which he said to "favor the minority voice." Do your facilitators do this, or do they try to hammer the opposing voice into the ground?

I would also ask you--how involved are you in your community? Do you regularly attend committee meetings or just drop in once in awhile? How is it that you are not hearing about the proposals far enough ahead of time to get your input incorporated? Are committee meeting times & dates posted in a conspicuous place far enough in advance that most people in the community can see the posting and decide to attend?

I thought the articles were timely and well-written. They certainly gave me a lot to think about!


JP COHOUSING  617-524-6614
"Foundations built and only one unit left!"

On Thursday, July 15, 2004, at 05:01 PM, Norm Gauss wrote:

I have seen the groupthink dynamic in community meetings at our cohousing group. The meetings are usually begun by process activities often lasting
up to 45 minutes before business is introduced.

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