When technology helps groups make better decisions

By July 06, 2012
Keywords : Smart city, America, loomio
employees voting yes on a decision

Loomio’s open source web app helps groups make decisions more efficiently while collaborating more fairly. Its approach leaves room for third-party tool support while giving teams more tools to reach their goals.


Group decision making has often taken the form of top-down hierarchy or bottom-up inclusion. With the top-down method, decisions can be implemented immediately through the chain of command, but this can occur at the expense of some good ideas. In the bottom-up method, all voices and ideas are recognized, but sometimes it can be time-consuming and deceptively un-democratic. Loomio attempts to take the positive aspects of both types of decision making and fuse them into a new workflow that incorporates speed and participation.  Using visualization tech to facilitate real-time collaboration, Loomio offers open-source software that plans to scale to any group that makes decisions, be they households, neighborhoods, businesses or government.

Decisions get made with proposals, voting and topic focus

The Loomio web app is currently in alpha testing, but when it launches it will be free and open-source. Discussion begins with specific proposals, and members vote on each of these. The default actions are yes or no, abstain and block for these proposals, which can be customized. Votes are tallied on a chart where all members can see how many actions were gathered in each category - number of yes or no votes, number of blocks, etc. While this collaboration tool is helpful, what is more unique about this product is that it includes ways to focus discussions. While teams can communicate in various channels - email, chat, etc, if they agree that decisions are only made on Loomio, it can cut down on noise and limit discussion fatigue.

Better decision making to improve society?

The Loomio team sees their product as critical not only to homes and companies, but to the much bigger picture - “Right now, the world is suffering because groups of humans are making bad decisions. Decision-making processes are failing globally and locally,” Loomio’s intro video posits. As can be seen on their blog, Loomio takes the democratic process very seriously. Discussing the role of new media in civic engagement, as well as opening the alpha to various like-minded companies and startups, are ways in which Loomio is molding its product to help these new, hybrid group discussions flourish.

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