Decision Making in Teams – Getting to Grips with Diversity
Businesses routinely structure people into teams to make decisions. Studies, however, consistently and convincingly demonstrate that individuals outperform groups or teams most of the time. Relational issues, for example, mean that:
- Groups are much more likely to close down possibilities than to open them up.
- While diversity is important to group decision making, it also tends to increase conflict, so the overall result is more often to make things worse, not better.
- Best practice rapidly tends to become ‘group think’, leading to ‘conventional wisdom’ that blocks the development of new ideas and perspectives.
There are many paradoxes involved. Even the generally accepted belief about the importance of collaboration is incomplete: just as too much conflict wrecks achievement, when relationships get too comfortable, teams never perform at their best. Being happy working together, it turns out, can be very bad for innovation. Nevertheless, a few teams do succeed in creating the conditions necessary to far outperform even the best individuals, and they are worth studying. They prove that the greatest potential for breakthroughs exists when people work as a team—but it very rarely happens unless the environment is just right.
The best teams demonstrate the need for dynamic tension amongst their members – stimulating and challenging interactions that result from the diverse thinking of interesting combinations of people. However, the interpersonal differences that are essential to creating tension can also produce fear and conflict, and when that happens, no one wins. So, in parallel with maintaining diversity, an environment must be crafted within which people feel safe: unafraid to share their ideas, willing to challenge, and welcoming of being challenged.
This workshop examines why it essential – and so difficult – to establish and maintain the rare combination of cognitive diversity and psychological safety needed to create high performing teams. By the end of this session participants will recognise and understand why mastering the paradoxes is essential and know how to create a culture within which this is possible. We will explore:
- Several of the most important paradoxical requirements, such as:
- Having tolerance for failure while being completely intolerant of incompetence.
- Collaborating while continuing to demand individual accountability.
- Being willing to experiment while maintaining high discipline.
- Feeling safe while people are brutally candid.
- The value of provocation – how the thinking of a group shifts when they know they will be challenged.
- The essential contribution of differing perspectives – the need to seek “culture add” rather than culture fit when building the team.
- Why even seemingly terrible ideas can play a vital role in improving final solutions.
- How inter-reactivity between individuals can rapidly lead to breakdowns in communications.
- The need for just the right amount of tension within a team, why leaders must ensure that tension does not get personal, and how this might be achieved.
- Why a goal that the team is aligned behind can be a game-changer.
- The small set of critical values which support the development of high performing teams.
Updated January 2019.