Re: Formal Consensus, passivity & groupthink - Ann
From: Norm Gauss (
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2004 12:03:15 -0700 (PDT)
>I'm wondering, Norm, what piqued (spel?) your interest in "groupthink?"
>Have you felt you have had to deal with this in your cohousing community or
>have you seen it operating in other cohousing communities?

Groupthink was discussed in a series of newspaper articles on July 10 and 11
in regard to U.S. Government decisions (see my first post on this topic on
July 14).  I felt that the same tendency was appearing in our group and
could be a problem in other cohousing communities, especially when voting is
being visually monitored by the whole group.  I think that anonymous voting
would yield better results.  It would be more cumbersome and time-consuming
but worth it.  Many members are biased by how other members vote and
eliminating a "groupthink" tool would get them to think independently.

>Never in my meager 12+ years experience using consensus have people just
>followed along on someone's charisma in a meeting.  Quite the opposite is
>true if you follow the norms of consensus.  Or maybe I've just belonged to
>more cantankerous groups!

For thoughtful consideration, some proposals require an understanding of the
underlying financial, architectural or engineering issues.  These are more
likely to receive a "kneejerk" approval from members who have difficulty
understanding the proposal are else are not interested.  It is these types
of proposals for which the presenters can have a powerful persuasive
influence, especially if they appear confident and authoritative.  Indeed,
charisma can sell the proposal.

I like cantankerous groups and dislike efforts to "bring us together".
However, promoting group togetherness may be useful in combating the
tendency of some members to use personal arguments in their concerns about
proposals.  They may lose sight of the group perspective in their efforts to
decide what is best for them, and the group view may be used to convince
them that, in the long run, the group view is a better way to look at things
than a self-centered view.   We have had self-centered members in the past
that decided that cohousing was not for them, and they left us.  Both we and
they are better off.

To the extent that promoting togetherness may lull us into a sense of
complacency and quell desires to "upset the apple cart", I have a desire to
move in the opposite direction.  I sometimes have strongly felt objections
to proposals and even hurt sponsors feelings or get them frustrated at me
for obstructing their desire for quick consensus, but after the meetings
when emotions cool down, we are usually on speaking terms.

Norm Gauss
Oak Creek Commons
Paso Robles, CA

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