Six Ways to Help Ensure the Best Ideas Win!

*This is a brief excerpt from Michael Kerr’s latest book, The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank

Picking winning ideas from losers is easy in hindsight, but when you’re in the passionate, heated throws of a lively debate in a meeting with your peers about something you care dePenguins Meeting_1619038eply about, it’s never easy. And it definitely requires a balancing act.

If everyone on your team opts for one big cuddly “love-in” then peer pressure might encourage people to “go along to get along,” resulting in dangerous ideas being adopted or the best idea being overlooked in favor of the group consensus. If your culture is too risk-adverse you’re in danger of always choosing the safest route; too trigger-happy and you might overlook some serious risks. Similarly, if people are too content with the status quo, people will lean towards safe ideas that don’t rock the boat (I’m looking at you Kodak), whereas if you’re too impatient you may jump the gun on a wild idea before having carefully thought it through (I’m looking at you the makers of new Coke).

There’s no question finding the best idea is often a balancing act, which, come to think of it, may not even be the right term when you consider that the best ideas are often along the margins and not in the mushy middle ground associated with compromise.

Here are six things you can do to improve the odds of the best idea seeing the light of day:

  1. Acknowledge the inherent danger of groupthink (history is littered with cautionary groupthink tales and studies that demonstrate how people in a group can be easily swayed to conform to sometimes outrageous decisions) and encourage ground rules that will promote honest and healthy debate focused on ideas and not on the personalities presenting those ideas.
  1. As with brainstorming, split larger groups into smaller subgroups of 2-3 people to encourage greater participation with honest opinions being shared.
  1. Assign a cooling off period before making any final decisions so that people have time to let things percolate.
  1. Bring in an outsider (or 2 or 3) to offer a more unbiased, baggage-free opinion.
  1. Assign the role of a court jester or contrarian to challenge assumptions, prod and provoke discussion.
  1.  Keep things light! Humor not only helps spark the creative process in numerous ways, it will keep emotions in check and diffuse tensions when the conversation heats  up, which, if you’re on the right track, it most certainly will.

Copyright Michael Kerr. Michael Kerr is an international business speaker who speaks on workplace cultures and humor in the workplace. His latest book is called The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank. 

Copyright © 2016, Michael Kerr. All rights reserved.
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