Re: Formal Consensus, passivity & groupthink
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2004 05:48:06 -0700 (PDT)

On Jul 18, 2004, at 11:27 PM, Norm Gauss wrote:

In this model, groupthink is more likely to occur, because in the
environment of passivity there is no compelling reason for people to get

Group think is actually more pernicious than this. It does not result from passivity but from active putting forward in a point of view that is unquestioned. I find that it is not passivity but bullying and wishful thinking that lead to group think much more than lack of participation. Groupthink is a very strong run at a brick wall, not a drifting toward it.

We at Oak Creek Commons actively seek members approval by asking for "thumbs up", "thumbs horizontal (meaning a concern), and "thumbs down". Thus more
assertive actions result and we have fewer passive abstentions.  This
departs from the described model in that a member can declare a block
instead of the facilitator.

I find this is exactly the perfect way to stifle discussion because it emphasizes the majority and puts everyone in the mindset of voting. You want to avoid that mindset at all costs if people are to think in terms of consensus. You want to encourage objections -- seek them out. That is the only way to test the action being proposed. You want to hear the objections so you have to focus on them. Allowing the "thumbs up" view of the room (and people ALWAYS call for thumbs up first!) is the conscious or unconscious display of the majority which is often intimidating to the one person in the room who may actually have a better solution but not the energy to "fight" the majority.

Thumbs is an insidious practice -- voting. and does not help bring out objections or concerns. Asking for objections and for concerns (and distinguishing between the two) brings the discussion to the point much faster and allows you to deal with objections when everyone is fresh enough to deal with them.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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