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Five-Fingered Consensus

Object of Play

Like Red/Green Cards (discussed later in this chapter), this is a technique for managing the feedback loop between a facilitator and a large group. When working in breakouts or as a large group, it may be necessary to periodically gauge the level of perceived consensus, without spending an unnecessary amount of time talking about it.  A facilitator may ask for this quickly by using the “five-fingers check.”

How to Play

The facilitator asks the group to rate their level of consensus on a topic from 0 to 5, with five fingers meaning “absolute, total agreement” and a fist meaning “completely different points of view.” This is particularly useful in managing breakout groups, where different topics may be discussed simultaneously.  A group that holds up a variety of ones, twos, and threes may have more work to do.

Strategy

The “trick” in this technique is in gauging how far apart the individuals feel they are from consensus. A group that is wide apart in the view of its members—with some holding up five fingers and others holding up two—may need outside support and mediation of their discussion.

Hand signals are a commonly found element of consensus-based decision making and dispute resolution. Related is the thumbs-up, thumbs-down, and thumbs-sideways technique.

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