Get a New Perspective to Prevent Workplace Groupthink

Teamwork

TeamworkIt’s likely happened to you.

You are sitting there in a meeting among your coworkers, and you start to be able to tell who is going to say what, and how each person is going to respond.

Sure, you’ve gotten to know them well. You know their Myers-Briggs scores. You know who likes what type of cupcakes from the local bakery. You know what so-and-so is doing for the holidays.

But you’re supposed to get to know your coworkers and collaborate through teamwork, right?

Yes, absolutely. You are supposed to know what they are good at, how they will respond to certain elements, and how they solve issues.

But what you have to be careful with is the groupthink that can be created after working together for a long time. Once that happens – when you can predict how people will react to a certain thing and even guess what they are going to say – you have entered into a dangerous zone.

Why is this so dangerous? Clearly, you are all a well-oiled machine. You’re efficient. You know the ins and outs of what to do in your job, and they know the ins and outs of what they need to do in theirs. What’s dangerous about this situation is that you don’t have a diversity of thought. People keep formulating the same ideas they have for a while, and they will continue to do so until they are shaken up by a new perspective.

You need to introduce an outside party. No, this doesn’t have to be a consultant, but it should be someone outside of your group. Bring someone in that is interested in the project or someone who might be affected by it, and ask them to walk you through his or her thought process.

You need that different perspective, that diversity of thought to come up with ideas and solutions that you as a team probably would not have gotten to – or at least wouldn’t have reached in as timely a manner as the “new guy” would.

Just be careful that you don’t have too many cooks in the kitchen. That can be detrimental as well. You want to make sure that you have enough new people in the mix to push diverse perspectives and to ask questions that the group normally wouldn’t ask, but that you don’t have too many people with too many thoughts that you can’t narrow down the thoughts to a few good ones. This is how great ideas come to fruition.

Here at The Motley Fool, a couple of examples of diversity of thought come to mind. First, in every in-person interview we have, we bring in what we call a Foolish Ambassador – someone who is not in the department or group that the candidate is applying for. We want an outside person to see if they are, indeed, a Foolish fit for the company, and not just a fit for the group.

Second, once we hire new Fools, we want to hear what they have to say. Many of our Foolish employees have been with the company for quite a while – we have a very low turnover rate – so many of us have heard what so-and-so would say about this-and-that. We want to hear what the new blood thinks; we want them to have the ability to try out new ideas. So when our new Fools start, we start this thought process by asking them what they would change in our orientation process.

I’ve been to a few conferences lately, and I’ve heard this more than any other line: “When you get comfortable, that’s when you should think about changing jobs or taking on new projects.” I think that also works in groups and teams. If you are too comfortable, you need something to spark some new thought and change things up. It could be as simple as changing scenery by having a meeting outside or at a coffee shop. Or you may need to change up your group dynamic.

Think about it – but make sure you ask for feedback from someone you don’t ALWAYS ask feedback from.

Supporting Foolish Introverts

Supporting Foolish Introverts

Supporting Foolish IntrovertsBy Tamsin Green, Office Dynamo

One thing we’re working on at The Fool is creating a culture that supports both introverts and extroverts. While extroverts tend to be energized by spending time around other people, introverts like myself expend energy interacting and need time to recharge. With the business world trending toward open floor plans and collaborative work, many offices seem to favor extroverts. But the Fool is home to many incredible introverts, and we want them to be able to do their best work here, too. While our efforts are still in progress, here’s a list of four things that we either are doing or are trying to do that help support our introverts.

(Note: Not all of these were designed specifically for introverts and all of them have benefits for extroverts as well.)

The Meyers Briggs Profile

Education about the introversion/extroversion spectrum is very helpful in building a knowledgeable and supportive community. Our internal university recently held a very well attended class on the Meyers Briggs profile. This tool does a great job at explaining the difference between introversion and extroversion and gives everyone a vocabulary to talk about the differences between the two. Education builds awareness, which helps both introverts and extroverts work better, together.

Mentoring program

Many introverts, including myself, prefer one-on-one or small group conversations to mingling in a large crowd. Our mentoring program creates a structured setting in which this can happen. The deep relationships that can develop through consistent one-on-one contact in the mentoring program are the type of interaction that many introverts crave.

Meditation

As part of our Wellness program, we offer weekly meditation sessions and periodic longer visits by meditation specialist Jonathan Foust.  For introverts this offers a regularly scheduled time away (and a dedicated Outlook calendar appointment) to re-energize and recharge. Including meditation as part of our Wellness program also is a company-wide indicator that taking time out of your day to ‘do nothing’ is not just supported, but encouraged.

Concentration areas

This is one of the areas that we’re still working on. Our open office structure is great for collaboration and for those who gain energy by interacting with people, but it can be taxing for introverts (and for anyone who needs to get work done without interruption). Based on feedback from Fools, we’re working on creating spaces in the office that can serve as ‘concentration areas’ where people can focus without distractions or simply escape to in order to recharge.

Finding the right way to balance the needs of introverts and extroverts in an office can be tricky, and we think we’re on a good path. But we also want to hear what other organizations are doing. Are you an introvert struggling with your open office? An extrovert constantly coming up with reasons to leave your office? Do you think your organization does a great job at supporting both? We would love to hear your comments.

For more information on introverts, a great resource is Susan Cain’s TED Talk on The Power of Introverts (based on her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking). Other articles about introverts have been published by The Atlantic, Time Magazine, and Forbes.