Straw Vote

In principle, the best group decisions are based on shared understanding of everyone's perspective, and the best way to get a quick read of where everyone stands is to take a straw vote. A straw vote is not a real vote; it does not count over the long run, like straw. Someone might say, “Let's just see how people feel about the latest idea. All those who tend to like it, show a thumb up. If you tend not to like it, show a thumb down. If you are neutral or undecided, show a horizontal thumb.” Count the thumbs in the three categories. That is a straw vote.
It lets everyone in the group see, in a quick and general way, if “the latest idea” is worth more group time and energy. It also shows where the concerns are (the down thumbs) so the facilitator knows who to call on to hear concerns.
Some groups use color cards for straw votes. Some use high-tech remote key pads and the results are graphed instantly on a screen in front of the room. The most efficient groups use straw votes often and with ease.
Practical Tip: Do not hesitate to call for, or participate in, a straw vote. Before calling for a straw vote, make sure the question is clear and simple; you do not want to waste group time haggling about: “What are we voting on?” When calling for a straw vote, remind everyone that it does not count over the long run, that everyone has the right to change their mind later, and that it is simply a quick and blurry snapshot of how the group feels at this moment. Still, even a snapshot can be worth a thousand words.

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