Consensus is a form of making decisions as a group. Consensus seeks the full participation and consent of the entire group on the decision at hand. Consensus can be thought of as a way to find and agree upon an idea that can be supported by everyone involved. This does not require that the idea be the favorite of everyone involved, so long as the idea is not actively opposed by one or more individuals within the group.
We seek to utilize consensus as the primary form of decision making within our organization. We chose this form of decision making mainly due to the inclusive nature of the process required to reach consensus. Because every member of the organization must agree on a decision before it can move forward, we find consensus ensures that no single person is pushed out or left feeling that they are not being listened to.
Consensus does not require that everyone love the idea being put forward. In fact, in many cases the solutions or ideas are not favored by one or more people within the group. If those individuals agree with the idea, even though they do not favor it, then consensus has been reached. If those individuals actively protest the idea, with due reason, then consensus is blocked and the group enters into a discussion on the reasons why, or they may move on to a new solution or idea.
It is important for anyone involved with an organization that utilizes consensus be trained on how consensus works. Without proper education on the subject, many people see consensus a way to exert power or influence, to block ideas that they do not like, and to force their own agenda onto a group. This happens when an individual falsely believes that they must favor an idea in order to accept and support it.
In reality, we may find that we want some specific outcome, but that we also see that another specific outcome, while less than ideal in our minds, is still a pretty good idea overall. Even if we find that we cannot have our favorite idea, we can ensure that the group agrees on an idea that is beneficial.
Because of this, consensus can be a very good method of tempering ego, gaining insight, and strengthening patience. Consensus fosters group discussions and helps uncover the reason why an individual likes or dislikes a certain idea. It goes beyond simple voting and seeks to ensure that the group understand the problem and the solution being discussed. This, in turn, leads to solutions and ideas that have a higher chance of being fully supported by the group, of working, and of lasting long into the future. In this way, consensus truly supports sustainable decision making in action.