What Goes Wrong In Groupthink?

Two heads are better than one, according to the old saying. So why are groups with lots of “heads” known for making bad decisions? Why does “groupthink” immediately connote ineffectiveness and mistakes?

These questions are answered in a fascinating new book called Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter, written by Cass R. Sunstein, a former White House official, and Reid Hastie, an academic specialized in the psychology of decision making. Building on their combined experiences and research, Sunstein and Hastie dissect what goes wrong in group decision-making, then offer clear-cut solutions to overcome these problems.

Group decision-making involves discussions among members of a group, each with their own skills, experience, ideas and information. Unfortunately, as the authors explain, there are two types of influences on group members — informational signals and social pressures — which skew the deliberations. Informational signals cause people to keep information to themselves when it contradicts information from others, especially leaders. Social pressures cause people to keep information to themselves to avoid punishment, for example, the disapproval of leaders who are contradicted.

These influences lead to four problems, the authors write: Instead of correcting the errors of their members, groups actually amplify those errors (e.g., the leader’s mistaken conclusion is validated by the group); cascade effects take over when the group follows whomever spoke first or loudest; groups become more polarized, that is, more extreme in their sentiments, as the internal discussions reinforce their predisposed thoughts; and groups focus on shared information (what most people know) instead of unshared information — the information known only by a few individuals.

Having laid out the core problems, the authors offer solutions. They begin with a list of methods aimed at counteracting the four core problems, such as

Leaders have to keep quiet and convince group members that they sincerely want to hear all ideas.

Group success (not individual success) should be rewarded. Group members must understand that if the group is right, everyone benefits; this will encourage them to ensure that they find the right answer rather than pushing their own ideas.

Group members should be assigned specific roles (for example, one person is the medical expert, another the legal expert), thus ensuring that everyone contributes.

Either individuals or assigned teams (known as red teams) should be tasked with acting as devil’s advocates.

Groups also fail, the authors write, because they don’t distinguish between the “sloppy” early rounds of deliberations, in which all ideas must be allowed on the table, and the final rounds of deliberations, in which groups must be tight and analytical as they seek the precise solution. Successful groups will deliberately separate the two processes.

In another approach, the authors demonstrate that the wisdom of crowds (making decisions based on the average or majority of large crowds of people) will often lead to the right answer if a majority of crowd members know their material. Decision-makers often prefer to rely on one single expert, but “chasing the expert” significantly reduces the probability of getting the decision right.

Wiser is a quick, engaging and thoughtful read that compellingly argues that, with a few simple steps and open-minded leadership, group deliberations can, indeed, lead to wiser decisions.

How Passion, Commitment, and Conscious Capitalism Built a Business Where Everyone Thrives

A CEO’S PRACTICE OF CONSCIOUS CAPITALISM

“The coolest part,” writes The Container Store founder Kip Tindell in his book Uncontainable, “is when you’re doing a performance review and give an employee a much bigger raise than she was expecting. She starts crying, you start crying, and the magic spreads across the company, and out into the world.” This short passage about compensation reflects the heart of Tindell’s philosophy of “conscious capitalism” in which the best way to make money is to do the right thing by employees, customers and the community.

Tindell’s authenticity and generosity are shown through his use of words that are rarely, if ever, found in any business book. Words such as “yummy,” which is used as the core description of the company’s culture and environment. “I know, chief executives don’t often use words like ‘yummy’ when talking about their companies,” Tindell writes. “But it’s a word we use all the time around here. When folks ask, “What do you mean by ‘yummy’?” I say, well, it’s the opposite of yucky.” He goes on to explain that “yummy” is “the deeply pleasurable sensation employees and customers get the moment they walk through the doors into our store.”

How do you translate a concept such as “yumminess” into a business model and real-world business practices? The answer, according to Tindell, is found in The Container Store’s Foundation Principles. What stands out in these principles is the unwavering and unapologetic embrace of being kind, generous and even sentimental, of believing that there is good in everyone and that by building on that good, you create a money-making venture. Uncontainable is a respectful (Tindell believes in not saying anything if you can’t say anything kind) but firm rejection of Jack Welch and Milton Friedman.

The Seven Principles are:

1 Great Person = 3 Good People. The Container Store does everything it can to hire the best people, including compensating them at significantly higher rates than the average in retail. With his company consistently chosen as a Best Place to Work in America and boasting a turnover rate of 10 percent (the retail industry average is 100 percent), Tindell proves that his company is filled with truly great people.

Fill the Other Guy’s Basket to the Brim. Making Money Then Becomes an Easy Proposition. This principle is reflected, for example, in the company’s win-win relationships with suppliers, who are treated as partners. In fact, Tindell writes, good relationships with suppliers are win-win-win relationships because the customer also wins.

Man in the Desert Selling. Don’t just give the man in the desert a glass of water. Tend to all of his needs. Don’t sell a box. Sell solutions to the customer’s living needs.

Communication IS Leadership. The Container Store practices open-book management (with the exception of individual salaries). Open communication, Tindell explains, “is a crucial part of our commitment in valuing one another and making sure we all feel appreciated, included, safe, secure and empowered.”

The Best Selection, Service and Price. Most business will not attempt to achieve all three. “We work to hit the Triple Crown every day,” writes Tindell.

Intuition Does Not Come to an Unprepared Mind. You Need to Train Before It Happens. The average length of training in the retail industry is eight hours. In their first year, employees of The Container Store receive 300 hours of training — and the training continues throughout their career.

Air of Excitement! When greeted by enthusiastic employees genuinely interested in helping customers resolve their organizing needs, those customers become just as enthusiastic, Tindell explains.

Conscious capitalism is not always an easy sell, despite the do-good sentiment expressed in every form of corporate communication that emerges from a company’s PR machine. If there is a core lesson from Uncontainable, it is that truly conscious capitalism exists only if the CEO leads with his or her heart.

Maybe most CEOs will never be comfortable using words such as “yummy” or sharing the tears of pleasure that come with a raise. Not all CEOs can be Kip Tindell — but after reading this book, you’ll almost wish they could.

Three New Summaries to Lead Better

Leaders help themselves and their teams to do the right things. However, sometimes leaders need to re-think their vision or processes to improve their organizations. Leadership is about mapping out where you need to go as a team or an organization to be successful. Learn how to be a better leader by developing a culture of excellence within your organization, asking the right questions, and becoming a strategic thinker to “win” with these three new Soundview Executive Book Summaries.

Becoming_Your_Best

by Steven Shallenberger

Becoming Your Best by Steven Shallenberger. In Becoming Your Best, Steven Shallenberger, states that as a leader you can succeed in business and live a happy life at the same time. Shallenberger reveals the 12 principles for developing a culture of excellence within your organization. These principles will help you reach your highest potential and drive the kind of innovation that turns good companies into industry leaders, all while living a well-balanced personal life.

 

 

Good_Leaders_Ask_Great_Questions

by John C. Maxwell

Good Leaders Ask Great Questions by John C. Maxwell. To learn and grow into a successful leader, you need to yourself and your teams question, but the key is asking the right questions. John C. Maxwell presents the process of becoming a successful leader by examining how questions can be used to advantage, in Good Leaders Ask Great Questions. Maxwell shares leadership questions he has gathered from others and from his own experience that will inspire both seasoned leaders and new leaders to ask great questions to improve their leadership skills and careers.

 

Game_Changer

by David McAdams

Game-Changer by David McAdams. You can turn defeats into wins, if you have the vision to “change the game”. In Game-Changer, David McAdams uses game theory to out-strategize your rivals. McAdams discloses six basic ways to change games: commitment, regulation, cartelization, retaliation, trust and relationships. By learning to be a deeper strategic thinker, you’ll be able to “change the game” to plot business tactics and gain insights for your advantage.

Let’s Stop Meeting Like This – Please!

What would happen if you made all of your meetings voluntary? Eric Lindblad, vice president and general manager of Boeing’s 747 program did just that. There are no mandatory meetings on Eric’s watch. He wanted people to be there not because of threats or politics but because they wanted to be there.

You may be like Eric, feeling that too many of the meetings you lead are time-wasting, energy-sapping affairs. Most may seem like useless gatherings endured at the expense of your “real work” – meetings that sabotage your organization’s goals and product while wasting human capital.

If this is the case then you’ll want to sign up for our upcoming webinar with Dick and Emily Axelrod. They have the answers for those of us who are frustrated with our present meeting strategy. In this webinar you’ll learn how to:

• Transform meetings into productive work experiences.
• Identify the habits that work for and against energy-producing, time-valued meetings.
• Identify the critical choices that meeting designers, leaders, and contributors make that transform meetings.
• Create a meeting environment where everyone puts their paddle in the water.

Join us on December 16th for Tools to Save Time and Get Things Done and get a head start on reworking your meeting strategy for the New Year. You’ll be happy you joined us when you’re meetings become productive again.

Becoming the Boss

NEW RULES FOR A NEW GENERATION

Lindsey Pollak, author of Becoming the Boss, is a Gen Xer (born between 1965 and 1982), and she will be the first to tell you that Gen Xers are not going to make a huge difference in the world. The reason: there just aren’t that many of them. After the massive boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964), the next generation that will make a significant impact on the world is the equally massive Gen Y, or “millennial” generation (born between 1982 and 2000). Millennials are already stepping into leadership roles and will soon dominate the top ranks in government and business. Becoming the Boss is a manual for members of the millennial generation about to step into leadership positions, if they haven’t done so already.

Advice for Future Leaders

Pollak’s first piece of advice for these future leaders is to be the “CEO of You.” In two chapters (entitled “be” and “be.com”), Pollak describes how to build an offline and online personal brand, covering everything from handshakes to eliminating your online presence of any negative images. She also offers an in-depth step-by-step plan for building the most effective LinkedIn profile.

In other chapters, Pollak covers

  •     Communication. Millennials must also know how to mix high-tech and “old school” communication methods — it’s still important to know how to carry on face-to-face conversations.
  •     Managing. Pollak writes that today’s managers have new challenges, such as dealing with a workforce that is more diverse than ever before. With command-and-control leadership no longer acceptable (or workable), today’s manager must also be more transparent and open with their employees and colleagues than in the past.
  •     Prioritizing. Given the multiple, 24/7 digital forms of communication, generation Y is the “busiest and most stressed out generation in history,” writes Pollak. Effective time and information management is key, and that means being able to prioritize and delegate as well as avoid losing too much energy on stress. One suggestion: cut down on trivial decisions by, for example, laying out your clothes the night before or having the same breakfast every weekday morning. It may not seem like much, but research shows such trivial decisions take a toll.
  •     Connecting. Pollak suggests that millennials looking to move up gather a “rotating advisory board” of about five different types of mentors: traditional mentors, who share their wisdom; co-mentors, who are traditional mentors who teach but also learn from the younger people they are mentoring; sponsors, that is, people who can actually offer you that promotion or work on your behalf; peers, who are in your shoes; and (a very generation-specific suggestion) Mom and/or Dad — as long as they stay in the background!
  •     Continuous growth. Pollak closes the book with a reminder that everyone must continuously strive to stay current and improve. Among her recommendations: Stay humble, commit, change jobs and, a bit surprisingly, “make yourself feel old.” “You’ll be amazed at how fast the next generation sneaks up and you’re the one complaining about ‘kids today,’” Pollak tells her Gen Y readers. The answer: you’ll continue to grow if you develop relationships with interesting people who are “young and hipper than you are.”

Pollak is the author of Getting from College to Career, a book she was inspired to write as a result of her own experiences. In Becoming the Boss, Pollak, an independent consultant and speaker, again builds on her own experiences to lay out a thoughtful and comprehensive overview of the skills and attitudes any millennial will need if they ever have any hopes of becoming the boss.