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Decision Making Modes: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down Consensus Vs Majority

Brief Description/Purpose

Use this to explore the pro's and con's of different decision making modes (consensus, majority, etc). The exercise can be used to make actual decisions, or in classes looking at different decision making strategies.


Group discussion

Age Appropriate

Teens, Adults

Ideal Group Size

Any gruop size, and this works with very large groups.

Time For Exercise

Depends on purpose and use. 15 minutes to 60 minutes, longer if used in a training class focusing on teams or decision-making


Decision making

Detailed Instructions If Needed

1. Choose a few questions to pose to the group. They should be questions that have some meaning and involve immediate action for the group


  • Where should we go for lunch?
  • Should we turn the lights on or off?
  • Should we sit in a circle or  in a horseshoe?
  • Do you want to take a break now, or would you like to end the session early?

2. Ask the group for a vote, thumbs up is a yes. thumbs down is a no, thumbs in the middle means "I'm ok, but not happy with this option, or I don't care one way or the other".

3. Since you'll almost always get mixed results, then, ask someone from each "camp" to try to convince the others.

4. Redo the vote.

5. Throw open the question: "So, now what? How do we use these votes or opinions to make the decision?"

You can do another question if you choose. 

Your goal here is to have the group come up with the advantages and disadvantages of a consensus process versus a majority wins process, or even a "leader decides", or a unanamous decision requirement.