Finding Consensus

How many people make the best decisions?

One person:  It’s easy to make a decision as an individual but there is no variety of thinking involved, so decisions are often flawed.

Two people:  Successful decisions with two people depends on the characters.  If they have different backgrounds and contrasting approaches you can get good discussions and strong outcomes.  Too similar, like two accountants, and there is too much agreement and not enough diversity.  Conversely, two can end up in deadlock if they lack the ability to find compromises.

Three people:  This starts to get more successful.  With three you have some diversity of thinking but still a small enough group to find a consensus.  You can hear each individual’s point of view and have time to listen to the nuances of their feelings about each other’s ideas.

Five people:  Great.  More opinions, more diversity.  It does take a bit longer to make the decisions because you need to spend more time letting each person have their say and finding that consensus.

Ten and above:  Here the group dynamic changes. No one has the time or patience to listen to ten or more people’s subtle shades of opinions, and the consensus that satisfies everybody becomes elusive.  So you have to re-frame the decision making approach into a choice of two or three outcomes where the case for each can be made and after some discussion a vote is taken.  Consensus is lost in favour of a majority vote.

So for larger groups the closest you can get to consensus is to select a team of about 5 people who represent the spectrum of opinion and empower them with most of the strategic decisions.