Re: Group Think
From: David Heimann (
Date: Sun, 3 Jul 2011 13:12:03 -0700 (PDT)

Hello Everyone,

Here at JP Cohousing we've adopted a process from Laird Schaub where an idea needs at least three meetings (often more) to become consensed as a proposal: one to obtain input from the group on the original question/idea, one to discuss a proposal that a committee (or individual) has created from that input, and one to adopt the proposal as changed from that meeting. In between meetings, we encourage discussion and objections. Hopefully by the time a proposal finally comes up for consensus, all considerations and objections would have been raised and addressed. So far, while we have at times been disgusted by the length of time it has taken to come to a decision (sometimes a year or more), we have not yet regretted a decision we have reached by that process.

The times we have either had blocks of consensus or regrets about a decision have been where we felt pressed for time and didn't allow things to percolate to a conclusion. I imagine the Bay of Pigs decision felt the pressure of time as well!

David Heimann
Jamaica Plain Cohousing

Date: Sun, 3 Jul 2011 14:26:26 -0500
From: Robin Alexander <alexande.robi [at]>
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Group Think
To: Cohousing-L <cohousing-l [at]>
Message-ID: <5b38ba919e8ed62d525e3cadc606876c [at]>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1

We had a situation similar to what Norman describes but found a good way
out of it. We had a pet policy brought to the group after quite a bit of
work and compromise (we have a surprising degree of polarization around
pets - surprising to me anyway). There was some pressure to accept the
proposal but those who were opposed stood fast and over the next few
months a small group consisting of the "extreme" ends of the issue as well
as some moderates met frequently and managed to hash out a policy everyone
could live with if not totally happily. Thus we avoided a vote or
"forcing" consensus on the group. Many of us never thought that we could
pull it off and we were very happy that we did. So the key was
incorporating the objectors and their willingness to be incorporated into
the working group and the willingness on all sides to make (significant to
them) compromises.

Robin A.
(no flames please)

-----Original Message-----
From: Norman Gauss [mailto:normangauss [at]]
Sent: Saturday, July 02, 2011 11:09 PM
To: 'Cohousing-L'
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Group Think

I have seen group think in action when I have introduced cautions on
proposals being deliberated in community meetings. I have been branded an
obstructionist by group leaders if my arguments seem to detract from the

 If the group is enthusiastic, the non-committed people are likely to go
along with them.   Then the next step is consensus by the end of the
meeting.  If that does not happen, the proposer may experience
disappointment, which may weigh on the feelings of the group, thus
discouraging such an outcome.  Also, if consensus is not reached, the
community has to re-examine the issue in another meeting, thus risking a
decline of group interest and patience to re-examine the proposal.
Therefore, the sooner the community accepts the proposal the better, even
if there are serious defects that need to be corrected.

Sometimes a special committee may be selected to work on a proposal.  When
the committee finally presents its proposal, there sometimes is pressure
to accept it because, "They have worked long and hard on it and they
deserve to have the proposal accepted".

There is usually ovation when a proposal is consensed, as if the
achievement is passage of the proposal rather taking time to be satisfied
once passage has occurred.  Sometimes after passage, people ask questions
on what they have just approved.

Because of group think we have sometimes consensed on proposals on which
later improvement was needed.  Of course, rehashing an issue can be boring
to the membership.  If the facilitator does not feel that such an item
should be put on the agenda because of little interest from the group, the
item has been known to be omitted.

Norm Gauss
Oak Creek Commons
Paso Robles, CA


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