Effective Group Decision-making
By kate, December 01st, 2010
In 1992 I had an experience of group decision making that has inspired me ever since.
The Findhorn Foundation staff group had gathered in the pale peach living room of Cullerne House, a grand and gracious mansion built from huge blocks of highland granite. Fifty plus of us sat in a ring of chairs interspersed with pillows on the floor.
Our purpose was to make the best possible decision about a highly contentious issue: Should associate members of the wider community be represented on “Core Group” — the precious inner sanctum of the community?
The group was split. About half felt strongly that the Foundation had become inclusive enough, that associate members hadn’t invested sufficient time or money the way members had, and that the meaning and privilege of membership should not be diluted further.
The other half believed that it was time to open up: some associates were more dedicated and committed than many members; not everyone had the financial and lifestyle freedom to be members (e.g. people with families); the Foundation was evolving and Core Group needed to reflect the new realities.
People felt strongly on both sides. We took time so that everyone who wanted to speak had a chance to be heard. Faces were often red with emotion.
After two hours it was clear that we had gone as far as we could at the personality level, and a respected elder staff member, trusted to be neutral, led us in a brief visualization.
We sat in silence together, with a very few words guiding us to have an inner knowing about what served the highest for all concerned.
After the meditation, the elder suggested we share the bottom line — simply saying “Yes” or “No” to including associate members on core group.
I will never forget the energy in the room as we spoke, one after the other, all around the circle.
With each “Yes” the room got “soupier”, and in the end our decision was completely unanimous.
The unity was beautiful, profound, clean, unequivocal, and resonate. It was momentus and miraculous. We had stepped into a new way to be together, and everyone knew there was no going back.
While such unity in a group is extremely rare, it is also profoundly important. It indicates what is possible, and shows powerful ways forward.
What happened that Fall day? Why was such a profound shift possible?
Here are a few key factors:
- We knew each other well.
- There was strong shared purpose: We all wanted what was best for the community as a whole.
- We’d all been part of the community for 2 or more years.
- Everyone trusted guided visualization as a way to make decisions.
Perhaps the most important difference, though, was that each of us had experienced the difference between what happened when small “s” self was in the driver’s seat, and when we were wise enough to be guided by big “S” Self. We had a kind of maturity — to be able to surrender what we wanted at the personality level when this didn’t line up with insights from within.
This “difference that makes the difference” is huge, and is the impetus for the body of work called Make Light Work.