RE: Groupthink
From: Susan Sweitzer (
Date: Sun, 18 Jul 2004 18:20:32 -0700 (PDT)
Fascinating, thoughtful conversation on this topic.  Are there articles,
exercises and readings out there designed for groups trying to use consensus
and wanting to understand it better?  My experience and hence my resources
are biased toward Quaker process and the use of consensus and that is a bit
different than the way non-religious groups use it.

As someone who grew up with consensus decision making, I was surprised and
remain curious about the very different nature of consensus decision making
in a group which is unfamiliar with it, but likes the idea.  Our co-housing
operates with consensus, but has yet to feel confident or to fully embrace

I serve on a board of 45 Quakers who spend two and a half days together four
times a year using consensus and Quaker process (which is consensus plus an
assumption about finding a higher truth) for a wide range of decisions and I
have seen any number of amazing outcomes.  I have experienced blocking as a
gift to the group, when the group received it as an invitation to wrestle
with their own assumptions and intentions.  I have seen an entire group move
to very different decision as a result of blocking.  A skilled facilitator
will know there are serious reservations about a proposal long before it
comes to a situation that requires blocking.  Someone on this thread
suggested it is fine to say a proposal is too complex and not fully embraced
yet and postpone a decision on it.  I agree.    

I don't think I have much wisdom about this, except to say that the
experience, generosity, personal capacity for reflection and individual
ability to let go of a need to win or prevail, makes all the difference in
how well a group functions, regardless of the decision making process.
Rob's comments about the relationship of trust and openness to listening
seemed particularly pertinent, and as his comments on this list serve so
often are, wise.

Susan Sweitzer
Cobb Hill Co-housing
Hartland, Vt 05068
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