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.