group decision making algorithm

situation. a small-ish (3-7) group of friends are trying to decide whether to do activity X.

complication.  there is no clear consensus on what the group wants to do.  some members are more outspoken than others.  some people want to do it and don’t want to do it at varying levels of intensity, but it is very difficult to reach transparency and/or gauge feelings (especially factoring in how people often temper what they say if they perceive the group direction moving in an opposite direction) (also difficult to balance “sort of don’t want to go” with “I think it could be fun”).  such conversation takes a significant amount of time and often yields no obvious or productive decision.  potentially can lead to frustration (I get frustrated easily) and cause people to mentally “quit” the discussion just to escape it as soon as they can.

key question.  how do you arrive at the decision (to do X or not to do X) that will maximize social utility?

proposed answer. go around and ask everyone to say, on a scale of 0 to 10, how much they want to do the activity.  5 is neutral.  take an average of the answers, and if the average is 5 or greater, then you will do the activity.

the additional twist is that for every 9 or 10, add 1 to the mean.  for every 0 or 1, subtract one from the mean.  this is to account for “if james REALLY REALLY wants to do it, then his opinion should matter more than those of us who don’t have strong feelings”.

easy math, it’s fast, and it maximizes social utility. acutaried!

UPDATE. (courtesy dave)

divisive fringe case.  if the activity is a divisive choice, which is defined as at least one person at 9-10 and at least one person at 0-1 and an average between 3.5-6.5, then a new alternative activity should be brainstormed.
additional assumption.  the algorithm assumes that should the activity be selected, each member of the group will participate in the activity.  each person values spending time with the group above their own preferences.

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