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A Thought Leader’s Guide to Ideation”
Do you want all your team members to think collaboratively about solving a problem through deep questioning, and in the process make sure they collectively “buy-in” to the proposed solution?
Or do you want your team to engage in Groupthink?
The former of course; that way lies a culture of continuous innovation.
The latter is prevalent in groups, too and it’s also toxic. Learn to recognize it.
Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs in any group when the desire for conformity and harmony – the need to not make waves or ruffle feathers – results in dysfunctional decision making.
Irrational decisions made because of a fear of seeming out-of-step with the mood of the group are commonplace amongst children, and especially teens. In fact groupthink amongst people at any stage of life is a sign of immature behavior; nonetheless it occurs all the time; from the White House down to the weekly staff meeting.
Many of us understandably wish to minimize or defuse conflict. That is not always helpful, however, especially if it means that a critical evaluation of a given situation is suppressed for the perceived greater good of a consensus.
Of course there is a fine line between peace-at-any-price and getting a job done, even if it means some heat is kindled. But it is a difference with a distinction. If dissenting voices are not heard then the loudest mouth takes over. If dissenting voices are not heard then the group is isolated from potentially beneficial influences and advice. If dissenting voices are not heard from then the opportunity to leverage the diversity of the group is lost. If dissenting voices are not heard from then the opportunity for all members to acquire listening and speaking skills or even leadership skills is lost. If dissenting voices are not heard then individual creativity is sacrificed for short-lived and ultimately false and unproductive harmony.
When a gathering of individuals is in groupthink mode they are not collaborating. They are thinking with one brain – usually the one with the biggest ego, and probably the most insecurities too.
Denial and hubris can be a powerful enabler of groupthink. Lehman Brothers’ management was reportedly feeling good about things until the day before their bankruptcy catalyzed a global market meltdown in 2008. Similarly a British retailer Marks and Spencers and British Airways held onto the illusion of invulnerability in the 1990s. Why change a winning formula? They asked. Someone should have answered; “Because the world is not standing still!”
The classic example of a groupthink decision gone horribly wrong was first detailed by Professor Irving Janis – who coined the term groupthink – in his examination of America’s disastrous invasion of Cuba known as the Bay of Pigs.
Thinking in Groups, on the other hand, is a phenomenon that happens when a network of independent brains focuses on combining and leveraging their diverse and unique skills with the diverse and unique skills of others to solve a problem.
This does not just happen, however, it needs procedures and rules. For the group to succeed it must have permission to speak Truth to Power.
Conclusion. In this era of rapid obsolescence, avoiding hubris and denial and empowering the group to seek optimal solutions is a key to survival. Business is subject to the laws of evolution just like any other organism. Only the fittest survive. And the fittest are the one who make the best decisions, and that means creating a culture of ‘thinking together.’
So, the question before you is not if you should implement a method that leverages the innate curiosity of your team using Questions as a means of achieving Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Problem-Solving and Communications, but how?
To see an example of how a team developed a sound idea when faced with a problem with customer service, watch this video.
If you want to be a Thought Leader, buy my book $9.99 handbook. INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGNERS AND LEARNING OFFICERS: A THOUGHT LEADERS GUIDE TO IDEATION.
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