RE: Consensus/Groupthink
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Fri, 16 Jul 2004 21:37:39 -0700 (PDT)
As a group moves forward in its  time together there are learned levels of
trust, which come from experiences. In essence you learn whom you trust, and
whom you do not. There are people whom I trust that I do not question much,
because from past experiences I know they do their homework thoroughly and
they have consistently represented the communities best interests. So I tend
to go along with what ever they propose. I see this dynamic as one of trust
as opposed to groupthink.

togetherness is perhaps the top intentional community desire, and spending
time building togetherness is part of what IC's do. Cohousing groups in my
experience don't do as much togetherness building as they should to build a
group cohesion. A group without cohesion tends to take MUCH longer to reach
decisions. Building group togetherness is different than groupthink. It can
also take place in different arenas than decision making meetings. Don't
mistake groupthink for thinking for the group. The heart of consensus is
creating what is best for the group. This is often very hard for people who
have little experience as collaborators and it can take a long time to learn
to trust in the groups wisdom. Patience all around is required, especially
from new members or young groups.

As you live together, you find that most things you are deciding are
changeable, you can repaint the commonhouse, replace the lamp, change the
dinner arrangement, etc. An experienced group recognizes this and puts its
pros and cons energy into things that matter. You don't want to exhaust
people spending hours of time evaluating simple, easily changeable
decisions. There are people who for some reason seem very slow to figure
this out and they invest all kinds of angst on very low priority stuff. This
is a good reason to delegate certain things to empowered teams. There will
be people who want to evaluate things in detail. Let them. Just don't make
everybody else suffer to meet THEIR need.

A great exercise to do sometime is the reaction, inaction game. Take a dozen
community issues, write them on a whiteboard for all to see in a numbered
list:1.2.3 etc. Then give everyone a card and have them evaluate that issue
either two ways, reaction, or inaction. they can mark Re and IN after each
number. Reaction means, YES I would willingly put two hours of energy into
this issue. Inaction means, NOPE, I would not be willing to put 2 hours of
energy into this issue.  Then make a Re and IN graph of the responses. It is
a fascinated study of group to see the differences. And, more importantly,
It really can teach the point that not everybody cares about different
things and THAT IS NORMAL. I usually follow this up with a discussion about
how to care take and work on things that YOU care about but that others
don't.  This discussion often brings out some great stuff and I have been
told by participants that it really changed their whole understanding of how
to be in a group.

Some issues deserve lots of time and thoughtful process from everybody.
Figuring out which ones do and don't is one of the key learning's your group
facilitators will go through. When you get a framework for this, it becomes
the dividing line of large group vs. small group decision making.

Rob Sandelin
South Snohomish County at the headwaters of Ricci Creek
Sky Valley Environments  <>
Field skills training for student naturalists
Floriferous [at]

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.