Friday, February 23, 2007

Group Think and Meetings

A recent study suggests that group think in meetings can result in poor decision making. Essentially, once people hear ideas from others, they have trouble coming up with ideas that differ from what has already been mentioned. So if you want people to come up with truly diverse ideas, you need to have them brainstorm individually, then come to a meeting with their ideas written down. Use the meeting to organize the ideas everyone has come up with on their own, discuss them, then take a break to allow everyone to process the ideas presented on their own. This gives everyone a chance to break out of group think again before a final decision is made.

Group think in meetings can also be used to great benefit when the purpose of a meeting is not to make a decision, but to get everybody on the same page. If working relatively independently has caused a group to lose focus on the goal they all are working toward, a meeting can serve to quickly refocus everyone's efforts on the task at hand.

Of course, group think in meetings can be taken advantage of in a negative way. If you want people to be incapable of thinking of any solution other than the one that you offer, even if they hate your solution to their deepest core, just force them to go to as many meetings as you can fit into a day, leaving them mentally exhausted and incapable of coming up with a better idea. Be careful to schedule meetings "before" and "after" lunch, but not during, so that you are not obligated to provide food even though it is obvious that no one will have time to eat between meetings. If people try to skip meetings to acquire sustenance, "forget" to tell them what (if anything) was decided in the meetings they skipped. This way, the rebels who are most likely to come up with ideas that differ from the desired group think will be left out of the loop and rendered incapable of contributing.

Meetings aren't the only place this is a problem. Any time someone wants to sell you something, they flood your brain with the wonders of their product, making it difficult for you to think of reasons why you shouldn't buy their product (other than not trusting salesmen). Politicians and pundits, too, do their best to fill your head with their ideas so that you have trouble coming up with your own. But meetings are particularly bad because they involve so many people trapped in a room together, unable to escape. Meetings have their uses and can be very productive when administered properly. But they can also be horribly unproductive if factors like group think aren't taken into account.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The part where you talk about lunch makes me suspect you had a specific personal experience in mind...
-Jason

2/24/2007 7:55 AM  
Blogger SpakKadi said...

"Silence!"

2/24/2007 8:36 AM  

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