Some Thoughts on Groupthink and the Silent Majority

How does loomio help individuals with unorthodox/innovative ideas bring those forward if every motion has to be approved by a group? How does loomio help leveraging the power and genius of a silent majority that’s always likely to delegate their vote or abstain? (We posted a NYT article on this subject a while back as well).

Some thoughts on an interesting question posed to the team.


Delegating or abstaining is hugely preferable to not engaging at all. Sometimes it can be a sign of problems (e.g. education is lacking), but in a healthy group those actions are a signal of trust between the group members. 


Most decisions probably don’t require in-depth involvement from most group members, and leaving it up to the few people who care most to debate the issue is fine. But if you make minimal engagement easy, your chances of having someone notice a really bad idea and speak up – even if they only speak up 1 out of 100 times and abstain the other times – goes way up, and this can save the group from making a big mistake…So sharing the responsibility helps increase the group’s collective intelligence.


One thing that contributes to groupthink is proximity. As in, I hear what the people next to me say and as a result I might think similar things. So if there’s a person in the group with a radically different/good idea, most people probably won’t be close enough to that person to hear them. One of the goals of Loomio (in my opinion) is to bring all of us closer together. Make it easier for us to listen to each other and collect all of the different ideas of the group into a single place.


Having the ability to engage, even though I may choose not to, is subtle but important. Lets me know on a daily basis of the issues, and my empowerment within the organisation. 

The money shot

We need to figure out how to best represent the effective flow of discussion > proposal > more discussion > better proposal … getting that right will really be the key for making this tool great. I was talking with an old friend from my University Co-Op (we ran on pure consensus and sat through a LOT of long meetings together) and the very first thing he wanted to know about Loomio was how it enabled “the magic” – meaning that evolution of idea to discussion and through the discussion to better idea that no individual would have come up with on their own, but the group clearly favors. That’s the money shot.

Facilitation of group discussions

There is an art to facilitating a discussion and then sensing when it’s matured to the point where it’s ready for an actual motion to be put forward (a distillation of the idea that’s emerging). And an art to sensing when that motion isn’t getting consensus and would need to be amended. The functionality is not there in Loomio yet, but it will be. The idea is that motions will grow out of discussions in this manner, so that by the time people are stating their positions, people have had a chance to participate in the discussion and knock ideas around without feeling outnumbered or like it’s a foregone conclusion. I think this is already playing out quite naturally – the first motion is failing because it was premature, but it’s helped move the discussion forward and the next motion will inevitably be much better.
Alanna, on the timing of killing a first draft of a motion in favor of a better one evolving from the discussion

What is a block

A block traditionally means that someone feels so strongly about a decision that if it goes through they will leave the group. This is distinct from a “no” vote, which means they have concerns and don’t think consensus has been reached. If after more discussion they still have concerns but the rest of the group wants to approve something, they will live with it. If this distinction is not made, then there’s really no point in having “no” and “block” since they’d overlap. “No” means “I don’t think consensus has been reached let’s keep talking”… more or less. I think each group will have to define these terms for themselves
Alanna, on the difference between “no” and “block”