The method of decision making and how it is facilitated makes a greater difference than you may imagine, whether you are collaborating to create a project, on a board in an association, handling a business or part of a community.
Most teams use majority voting or have the leader take decisions, because they don’t know a better way. Somehow we’ve grown used to the idea that majority voting is the best way of doing things that we don’t question it. We take it for granted. When democracy was introduced a couple of hundred years ago, it replaced autocracy, where a sovereign king or ruler made all decisions. So of course having a vote was better than not having a vote.
Maybe it is time to evaluate democracy? Does democracy really make everybody equal? Does it have some side effects? Is there anything else that could work better in this day and age?
Based on the knowledge I have gathered over the past 30 years, democracy has some major built-in problems that aren’t recognized as coming from democracy, but considered the normal way our society functions. Some of those are:
- The need to always have a majority on one’s side to secure influence affects the way we are together. Initially it creates separation. It divides people in those who are with me and those who are against me. The differences between us become something that separates us rather than something that builds strength. In nature, biodiversity gives strength. Since we are nature, diversity should also strengthen us.
- It creates losers and winners. It creates a majority and a minority. Sometimes 51% can overrule the other 49%.
- When it comes down to following through with action, the minority may not support the decision. They may even actively work against it. The result is reduced action.
Of course this neither creates stability, nor a fertile ground for collaboration and synergy.
Back in the nineties, I learned the Thoughtstorm™ method to dive deeper into the essence of any subject. When we tested how it worked for making decisions, I was amazed. With this simple method we reached agreements that everybody spontaneously would back up with action. Everybody felt an ownership to the decision, because the group intelligence and all perspectives in the group had contributed. There were no discussions or debates in the process of reaching the decision. Rather than making compromises the process deepened until we arrived at a place where the decision truly resonated with all of us. Often we didn’t even need to determine who did what. Action seemed to be a natural consequence of the enthusiasm we felt from being aligned on a deeper level. Collaboration was fun and filled with synergy. We didn’t even think about the concept of equality.
I heard about sociocracy for the first time in 2015. Besides being a method of decision making, it added another dimension, because it also contained a model of building an organization, so that decisions are delegated to the teams in the periphery of the organization rather than being taken centrally by the leadership. Yet without the possibility that a team could act irresponsibly. Organizations using sociocracy reported increased earnings and greater happiness. This interested me.
So I attended a course in sociocracy in 2017. It was even better than what I had hoped. The whole concept of leadership was lifted to another level. For the first time in my life I accepted a leadership role. According to the sociocratic model the leader is an equal part of the team and can only act within the policies the team has decided. Of course this means less power, but it also means that the leader isn’t responsible for making all the difficult decisions on his own. And the collective intelligence is put into play. The leader’s role is to support the team, ensure their motivation and that they stay connected with the aim and values of the organization.
The actual decision making method in sociocracy is based on that a proposal is supported unless it harms anyone or the project. There is a method of developing proposals that ensures that the group is behind the decision and a method of dealing with objections that makes sure personal preferences aren’t running the show. I now had two decision making models that encouraged the collective intelligence to come into play.
Intuitively I integrated the principles of Thoughtstorm™ when I facilitated sociocratic decision making. Over time, it has become evident that this way of facilitating sociocratic decision making is a lot easier and a lot less technical than what I sometimes see when some of my sociocratic colleagues are facilitating. Simple things sometimes tend to be complicated if it is facilitated from a more technical understanding of sociocracy. This tendency to view it from a technical perspective has led to several different sociocracy methods that ‘compete’ with each other. With the principles of Thoughtstorm™ integrated in the way of facilitation, it doesn’t really matter which sociocratic method is used. It just means the use of different words. The essence is the same.
If you like to dive deeper into this way of facilitating sociocratic decision making Avnø Højskole offers courses every now and then.