3 Collective Decision-Making Pitfalls to Avoid

by Sep 30, 2019


Decision making is such an important part of our teams and of life. We make decisions all the time! Some of us take these actions quickly, snapping our fingers and heading off in the direction of our choosing. Others take longer to deliberate, examining every factor like a precious gem.

What is your decision-making style when you have a big opportunity ahead? Do you trust your gut? Do you do a lot of research?

How does your team make decisions? Do you tend to defer to someone on the team? Do you research and deliberate? Is it clear when you’ve made a decision?

After years of research, we’ve designed a cooperative decision-making process that allows for differing perspectives, clear communication, and democratic decisions. We call that process Integrative Consent. AND, it’s a game-changer for teams. You can learn all about how to use this tool in your team through the Cooperative Decision-Making Toolkit!


As you’re practicing and learning Integrative Consent, like any new process, there are some common pitfalls to avoid.


Pitfall 1:

Getting sidetracked because the team or facilitator is lost in the decision-making process or losing track of who is in charge of the proposal within each step.


A meeting where you’ve gone round in circles because people have a seemingly endless amount of questions and comments (often repetitive) and no one feels bold enough to end that particular step of the process.

What to do instead:

The first is to pay attention to who is in charge of or facilitating the proposal at which step in the process. If a team isn’t relying on the person who first raised the issue (the proposer) under discussion to shepherd the proposal through the first three steps of Integrative Consent to amend it, you can expect to get stuck on any of those steps… spinning your wheels without going far.

If you feel like your team is lost or is simply going around and around, clarify where you’re at in the process. You might note: “Okay, we’re still in the round of questions and comments. Let’s hear from each of us one more time before we move to amendments.”

Pitfall 2:

Trying to get to the best, most perfect idea that everyone loves… (While this is a great goal, it is often not attainable or necessary for effective collaboration!)


The proposer has heard many different possible changes to their initial proposal and (wanting to please everyone) has taken a lot of group time to wordsmith their proposal during the amendment step to try to get it perfect. Then in the objections step someone raises a concern regarding a specific term which isn’t actually something that causes harm, just a personal preference. Even so, the facilitator still tries to integrate it and finds someone else raises an objection about the new term, and so on until the team has run out of time to act.

What to do instead:

Facilitator (and proposer), remind yourself and your team that we’re shooting for good enough for now and that the integration round is a time for the rest of the team to help smooth out important wrinkles. Don’t spend too much time trying to make things perfect or everyone happy. We’re seeking a decision that won’t do harm (one important piece of this process).

Pitfall 3:

Getting stuck within validating and integrating objections (last step for consent on a proposal).


Someone strongly and emotionally objects to a proposal, but can’t say much more than they really don’t like the proposal and won’t stand behind it.

What to do instead:

Of course, validating objections can be tricky. The key here is remembering that it’s the objector who needs to take their objection through the criteria and determine if it’s valid or not. The facilitator and the rest of the team are there to ask good questions to help the objector make that determination and then – if it is valid – to brainstorm an amendment which will integrate their objection. Find out more about integrating objections in the Cooperative Decision-Making Toolkit

The most important thing to remember is that when you are using Integrative Consent, you should be aiming for decisions that are safe to try. This process invites you to be mindful and adaptive so you don’t have to get it perfectly right the first time for it to work or make a big difference for your team. Just pay attention to what questions and concerns emerge as you move forward with your decisions and be open to future growth and change.

Navigating cooperative decision-making can be tricky and complicated. We encourage you to take a few collective breaths as you notice and feel things getting tricky. Sometimes, we can figure these things out much easier when we are grounded and connected.

Find out more about Integrative Consent and other tools in our Cooperative Decision-Making Toolkit!