Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Power and Challenges of Group Wisdom

It seems I always learn something new whenever I read an article from organizational performance expert Francisco Dao. Once again Francisco has written a brilliant article published in Across the Board magazine, a Conference Board publication. This article, Strength in Numbers, discusses how companies can benefit from harnessing group thinking and how most corporate cultures, be they team oriented or competitive, by their very nature stifle the power of collective wisdom.

Of particular interest to me is the notion that having a group of really smart people is not a requirement for successful group thinking. In fact it is a hindrance. According to Dao, studies have shown that a diverse group of thinkers of random intelligence outperforms a select group of smart thinkers every time. The general concept at work here is that diversity in thought creates more alternatives to consider. Like minded thinkers tend to reinforce each other's thoughts rather than consider new ways of looking at things.

Dao also explains how a team environment can work against the sharing of diverse opinions even among a diverse group of people.
The team concept based on fostering familiarity and friendly cooperation between employees, often results in congeniality taking precedence over the introduction of ideas that might prove unpopular...When this happens, action takes a back seat to talk, and meetings become less about solving problems than about finding agreement.

One solution that is presented is to focus the team on a company goal. With a set goal, the team can focus on unity of purpose rather than unity of team for its own sake.

Read the article for lots more on this subject. Click here.

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