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. 

A Fractal Vision for Loomio

I think productive, inclusive human organisations and productive, inclusive human discussions can be typified as being “organic”, and any systems we build to try to coordinate & organise these organisations and discussions can be thought of as “inorganic”.

So when we have a meeting with lots of good free-flowing discussion, that’s what I mean by ‘organic’. In order to share the value of that meeting though, it needs to be distilled into minutes or notes: I would say these are ‘inorganic’. This is the crux of the organic/inorganic problem: the notes or minutes are never going to catch all the details and the subtlety of the actual meeting: for it be of any value, it has to be relatively brief, digestible, shareable.

Groups and sub-groups are another version of the problem: the organic reality is that most humans are involved to different degrees in different overlapping sub-groups. The problem is, in order to get anything done you need to impose some kind of inorganic structure, but there is no perfect way to compartmentalise people into defined roles & responsibilities. 

The problem we are grappling with is how to make a system that simultaneously captures the subtlety of reality while effectively summarising these subtleties into digestible chunks. 

 The answer is… fractals!

My intuition says that the ideal Loomio will have all kinds of fractal characteristics. By fractal I mean self-similar at different scales, zoomable to infinite depth, recognisably beautiful. 

Continue reading A Fractal Vision for Loomio

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”

How to not sell out

Hi! I’m Rich. I’m one of the people working on Loomio. I come to the project from an arts/activist background, so I have some pretty strong feelings on culture, community, and business.

One of the inspiring things about the team we’ve got is that there is room for people with different ideas. There are people like me who have a knee-jerk reaction to business (eww yuck boo), but there are plenty of others with a more mature and experienced view that are really excited about the potential for the tool to help businesses work more efficiently and more democratically. 

In preparation for last week’s meeting about the Loomio business structure, Jon, Ben and I had an email conversation. Don’t take it too seriously, it’s just an off-the-cuff statement of my position regarding Loomio and the Tyranny of Money. It was intended to be read by an audience of two friends, but I figure it couldn’t really hurt for anyone else that wants to get a better idea of how I feel about the project. 

Continue reading How to not sell out