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 countless conversations I’ve had about Loomio as I’ve been traveling up and down the country have really driven home to me how easy it is for most people to grasp the practical need for it, but also its overarching implications (the not-so-secret agenda) and potential for democratising a vast range of human institutions.

Consensus decision-making

I’d go on with “consensus decision-making”. Consensus sounds hippie (does it really?) just because it’s been stigmatized and misused. I feel if we change our vocabulary just because of what some people might think, we’re not on the right path to make them think different. I think we should base the vocabulary we use on what we think is most meaningful, not on how they are used in the current society, nor on a unfounded presentiment. Also, by *choosing* words for what they really *mean*, I think we can help to give sense to words. That is using the power and the truth that every word has in its essence to share ideas that are inherently strong and honest. Let’s focus on how the words we use resonate in our heart. Let’s really do it.
Nicolas, on using the word “consensus”

The meaning of ‘abstain’

Abstain means a lot of things. Sometimes it means ‘I don’t care’, sometimes ‘I don’t know’, or ‘I don’t feel qualified to answer’, but the important thing is it is always an ~active~ statement: ‘I acknowledge the existence of this motion and for whatever reason I am not saying yes or no to it’.
Rich, on the meaning of “abstain”

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.