How to Survive Groupthink in Cross-functional Collaboration - Jacqi Bjordahl

How to Survive Groupthink in Cross-functional Collaboration

March 21, 2014by hiebing2021

Committees can be the kiss of death for creativity. Nobly designed to bring in multiple points of view, the committee process can easily go awry, resulting in inclusivity outranking focus and clarity. We’ve all been there, which is why I had no less than three different clients send me this video when it debuted a few years ago.

But as corporate cultures continue to embrace cross-functional collaboration, how can great ideas not only survive groupthink but actually, maybe, become a little better because of it? Is it possible, or are we really just putting lipstick on a platypus?

Much of it has to do with how expectations are set, how input is gathered and how key decision makers step up to help sort actionable input from the personal observations.

Carefully cast the meeting. Setting expectations begins with casting the meeting. Which perspectives are needed from an expertise standpoint, and which players with that expertise will bring the best energy to a session? A critical eye to the attendee list can help ensure you’re bringing idea generators to the table.

Set clear preparation instructions. Either prior to the meeting or at the outset, define what attendees are there to do. What are we trying to accomplish today, and what is each individual expected to contribute?

Brainstorming vs. evaluating. Clarity on when the time has come to brainstorm (creating ideas or contributing insights) vs. evaluate (critiquing or ranking ideas) is crucial. Nothing kills energy faster than ideas being picked apart as quickly as they are put up for consideration.

Focus on the group. In gathering input, it’s important that leaders within the group don’t exert undue influence in the idea generation mode. If it’s up to the group to consider and contribute thoughtfully, it’s more likely that surprising ideas will evolve.

Look through the right lens. Your team is sitting at the table because they’re deeply involved with the brand every day. Your target is not—so be sure that when you’re digging for insights and making decisions, you take the time to put on your target’s shoes, and see how your ideas look from there. That’s the best way to make sure that you’re not just preaching to the choir.

Are all opinions created equal? Perhaps most important is recognizing that while all opinions are welcome and necessary in a committee, not all opinions are created equal. Try to set out criteria ahead of time that you can use to assess the validity of feedback. Is it relevant? Is it actionable? Does it matter more to us or to the target? Will it make the work better, or just different? This is where the project’s leader can really step up and help sort out four to five key action items from a number of interesting discussion items, allowing work to get better and smarter… not just bigger.

Want to take your idea generation to the next level? Read more about how to make the most of your brainstorm.

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