This is one of the terms folks use when talking about how CommunityFocusing, i.e. keeping the community coherent. It tends, in the literature, to be mostly treated as a bad thing or at least something that in the extreme needs to be tempered.

"Mannix explained that once a decision is made on a course of action, it is often difficult to change direction. Many groups, she added, even have "mind guards" who prowl for dissident views and shut down questioning voices. "Mind guards, together with self-censoring - people who figure the decision's already been made, so there's no point in disagreeing - is why most organizations have to struggle against merely justifying a decision that's already been made," said Mannix."


I know that, many times, I myself function as a Mind Guard.

I don't think that it's a bad thing, either. We have mind guards in communities, we have mind guards in cliques, and we have mind guards in our own mind: Some times, you just need to move forward.

There are times when you are working for one goal, and then another voice pops up, in our mind: "I want to do blah-blah," or, "Shouldn't we be doing blah-blah." If the mind guard says, "No," nips it in the bud, so to speak, then you continue with the original plan.

Related but different: In TwinOaks, they decided to build a place to help them milk the cows, or something like that. There was a meeting, the people voted (AboutVoting,) and they came up with: "Let's do it!" - by a large majority. But they took their time in implementation. By the time a few years had passed, a third of the people thought it was a stupid project, a third of the people thought it should be turned into something else, and a third of the people thought it should continue. (Or something like that.) I forget what happened, but I think they eventually, by some process that everybody hated, completed the thing.

The author's conclusion? Strike while the iron is hot, especially when dealing with a community. You need to act super-fast, because human minds have a way of drifting and thinking about what's going on, and generating new (and divergent) ideas from there. You want to make something quick, so that people don't have time to change their minds, and then abandon or even reverse whatever was going on.

I believe this is true both on the individual scale, and on the mass scale.

MindGuards are one of the agents that can help things move along quickly and on target.

Does this story invalidate the idea "that once a decision is made on a course of action, it is often difficult to change direction."..? On the short term, I think it's true. When people make a decision, they want to follow through with it. But in longer term, I have doubts: The world we find ourselves in after a couple years can be dramatically different than the world we started in.

You'll get no argument from me that this is often a positive role in a community. Unless of course somebody already decided this term is reserved for excessive or exaggerated versions of the roles that help a community manage some degree of coherence, focus, and forward motion. See the (current) first paragraph of CommunityFocusing.

Meanwhile there is a story in the literature about the prisoner's dilemma games that points out that players will take actions that are self destructive to send a clear negative feedback signal (scolding effectively) to other players in the game. That gave rise to a bit of color I add to my stories along these lines "I could tell he was torn. But finally he made kind sacrifice of his own good reputation so I could benefit from his wisdom, and I gave me the finger."

There are all kinds of degree in this MindGuards role. If I say "Oh, here let me show you how we do that." Am I being a mind guard or am I just teaching local practice? What if I say "Oh, we don't do that." or "Don't do that!" or "…"