Coming up with the right decision in meetings is never easy. Especially when a group of passionate people is trying to decide on an innovative idea. If everyone 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 safe group consensus.
And if your culture is too risk-adverse you’re in danger of choosing the safest ideas; too trigger-happy and you might overlook the risks. Similarly, if people are too content and happy with the status quo, people will lean towards safe ideas that don’t rock the boat (I’m looking at you Blackberry), whereas if you’re too impatient you may jump the gun on a wild idea before having thought it carefully through (I’m looking at you Justin Bieber and the makers of “new” Coke). There’s no question finding the best idea is often a balancing act – which 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 compromises.
Here are six things you can do to help improve the odds of the best idea seeing the light of day:
1. Acknowledge the inherent danger of groupthink and encourage ground rules that will promote honest and healthy debate that is focused on ideas and not on the personalities presenting those ideas.
2. Split larger groups into smaller subgroups of 2-3 people to encourage greater participation.
3. Assign a cooling off period before making any final decisions so that people have time to let things percolate after the meeting. (We’ve all been to meetings where 24 hours later you wonder why the heck you hadn’t thought of something else or why you didn’t speak up.)
4. Bring in an outsider (or 2 or 3) to offer a more unbiased, baggage-free opinion.
5. Assign the role of a court jester or contrarian to challenge, prod and provoke discussion and debate.
6. 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.
Michael Kerr, 2014. Michael Kerr is an award-winning international business speaker and very funny motivational speaker who travels the world researching, writing and speaking about inspiring workplace cultures and the role humor plays in driving results.
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