Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Captainitis and Groupthink

Just ran a strategy session for a client.

A lovely business, growing at greater than 30% pa, on its way towards £20m turnover. Two things struck me (straight out of the book ‘YES – 50 secrets from the science of persuasion’).

1) Captainitis – besides the dangers of seeing yourself as the best decision-maker in the room, there is also the problem that others may believe that you are. In the past I was given a copy of a book of Black Box recordings from plane crashes. Most involved basic human error. Many included the team/crew assuming that the captain was right (because of his expert authority). Dangerous.

2) ‘Groupthink’ – if enough people agree then it is assumed that they must be right. Very dangerous.

When leaders fail to ask for input and when individuals fail to assert their feelings it becomes a vicious circle of bad/poor decision-making. When the group all merrily agrees with each other then it also a bad thing.

Fortunately, today I saw a leader who sought the opinions of his team members and encouraged all points of view, especially dissenting ones. This is no easy task but it does bring more commitment and buy-in in the long run.

As I saw, the clever/humble captain/boss/MD can break a potential cycle of unconditional agreement by inviting dissent from the knowledgeable team.

YES – 50 secrets from the science of persuasion’

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