Thursday, May 5, 2011

GroupThink 2.0

I sat on an economic development committee for over two years. In that time, I observed a group of people, some professionals (CEO banking), economic development, etc. and community people. (Business people.)

I observed the group. There was no group think. It looked like someone trying to herd cats.

After two years of attempting to stimulate investment, attract business, deal with green fields and brown fields, we finally had the opportunity to entertain a state official of the department that hands out grant money. (It's their job to give money away.)

We put on a great presentation, tour, helicopter, luncheon, the works. We got shot down--unceremoniously. (As Mrs. Slocum used to say, "How ignimonious" sic)

Upshot. "We give money for projects, not plans."

They licked their wounds. Still, they did not accomplish much.

On another committee, (Finance committee of a government programme.) I opined on moving funds into technology related projects. Website development, improvement, etc. People listened to me. We voted, agree--unanimously--funds were moved. Subsequently, the web presence and technology use became vital. We were that much ahead of the game.

Group think is a result of consensus building which was a consequence of the absence of leadership. Too, an absence of followship.

I addressed that issue in another discussion where a budding expert was giving examples of how he/she helped groups avoid group think. In short, this individual encouraged group think.

It is somewhat disheartening to watch (as I watched the members of that economic development committee), people discussing the same issues that had been discussed, have been discussed, are being discussed and will continue to be discussed.

I've studied groups, been in groups, been in a group that studied itself, worked in groups, on committees, on a committee to form a committee to set up a programme to form committees, and I dissected the different structures used handle projects and explained why each does not work. However, as I am adamant in my opposition to articles that are descriptive and not prescriptive, I also set up an organisational chart that will work for one of my ppt. presentations.

As I read in clever book on management just the other night (While waiting for my cat to come home) Come Together: The Business Wisdom of the Beatles by Richard Courtney and George Cassidy.

"Parks are full of statues erected to honour leaders. There are no statues erected to honour committees."

"This too shall pass."

In the heat of battle, no one turns to a committee. Everyone looks to a leader. See who they are looking to. That is a leader. That is the leader.

In my much younger days, when I took a holiday job while I was working on a novel, the VP came in, furious, because the department was in a chaotic state. For the second time. He asked my supervisor,

"What do we have to do to get this straightened out?"

My supervisor looked to me. The VP looked to me. I had a second operation (holiday) up and running the following day. And I was not even an actual employee of the company. Only a holiday temp.

The VP did not say, let's form a committee to find a solution. I did not receive a smiley face key chain.

The flip-side to one aspect on group think is that people propose new ideas, however, 1. due to group think the ideas are rejected; 2. due to a lack of ability demonstrated by several members of the group, the new idea is rejected; 3 lack of ability of the "leader" the idea is rejected; there is a divisiveness among the group (for and against) we move into the mode of consensus building and the new idea is watered down to where it is palatable....

However! The biggest problem with respect to "group think" is hiding in plain sight. The word "group". In addition, if you do "win over" the other members of the group and all embrace your new idea you end up with [wait for it]

GroupThink 2.0

Now you have two conflicting ideas at play. 1. Getting rid of Group Think and 2. Consensus building. On the corporate level, you have Risk Management and Risk Assessment. There is a cost-benefit analysis that new ideas must go through.

Finally (or not) there is the needy member(s) of the group who, after having an idea rejected, refuse to accept that the idea was rejected on the basis of a lack of merit, but who feel personally demeaned, diminished, marginalised and so on.

A greater reason that people do not propose new ideas is a personal one--the lack of ability to make objective assessments.




Copyright (c) 2011 Slim Fairview


Solomon said...

Enjoyed reading this.. thoroughly refreshing perspective.

slimfairview said...

Thank you!