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The Problem with Brainstorming in Teams

Working Resources is a San Francisco Bay Area Executive Coaching Firm Helping Innovative Companies and Law Firms Assess, Select, Coach, Engage  and Retain Emotionally Intelligent Leaders; Executive Coaching; Leadership Development; Performance-Based Interviewing; Competency Modeling; Succession Management; Culture Change; Career Coaching and Leadership Retreats

Dr. Maynard Brusman
Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach
Trusted Advisor to Senior Leadership Teams

 

Teamwork demands shared responsibility, but it also demands individual contributions. It fails if team members shelter behind the consensus.

 ~ Robert Heller, Founding Editor, Management Today

 

I recently spoke with a director of human resources who was searching for a San Francisco Bay Area executive coach for the executive team at her company. The director of human resourcesasked some very insightful questions to determine whether we were a good fit. She specifically wanted to know how I worked with different personality styles, and my methods for working with executive teams. She was very interested in my leadership development work with helping executive teams deal with groupthink.

The director of human resources and I spoke about my approach to working with executive teams, and my belief that groupthink can sometimes impede creativity and innovation. We also spoke of the need for her organization to work with a management consultant to help their company create a culture where creativity and innovation thrives.

The director of human resources is interested in partnering with me in helping their executive team work more collaboratively while maximizing each leader’s individual creativity. We further discussed how other company executives could benefit by working with a seasoned executive coach.

The False Benefits of Brainstorming

Brainstormingis a creative technique through which group members form solutions to specific problems by spontaneously shouting out ideas, without censoring themselves or criticizing others. The term was popularized by marketing expert Alex Faickney Osbornin the 1953 book Applied Imagination.

But decades of research show that individuals almost always perform better than groups in both quality and quantity, and performance worsens as group size increases. Groups of nine generate fewer and poorer ideas compared to groups of six, which function worse than groups of four.

The “evidence from science suggests that businesspeople must be insane to use brainstorming groups,” writes organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham.If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.”

The one exception is online brainstorming. When properly managed, groups that brainstorm online perform better than individuals—and the larger the group, the better it performs. The same holds true for academic research: Professors who collaborate electronically tend to produce more influential research.

What we fail to realize is that participating in an online working group is a form of solitude unto itself. Nevertheless, brainstorming continues to be a popular method within organizations.

Participants in brainstorming sessions usually believe their group performed much better than it actually did. Brainstorming makes people feel attached, but social glue is far different from genuine creativity.

Psychologists usually offer three explanations for the failure of group brainstorming:

1. Social loafing. Some individuals sit back and let others do all the work.

2. Production blocking. Only one person can talk or produce an idea at a time, so the others are forced to sit passively.

3. Evaluation apprehension. Even when group members agree to welcome all ideas, people fear they’ll look stupid in front of their peers.

Better Ways to Work in Teams

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. ~ Anthropologist Margaret Mead

Group brainstorming can be refined and adjusted to provide better results. The way forward is not to stop collaborating, but to do it better.

· To guard against groupthink, use checklists or ask certain team members to play devil’s advocates.

· If you need to stimulate creativity, ask people to come up with ideas alone before sharing them with the team. If you seek the wisdom of the crowd, gather it electronically or in writing first.

· Face-to-face contact is important because it builds trust, but group dynamics contain unavoidable impediments to creative thinking. Don’t mistake assertiveness or eloquence for good ideas.

Are you working in a company where executive coaches and leadership consultants provide leadership development to develop emotionally intelligent leaders and teams? Does your organization provide executive coaching for leaders who need to increase their emotional intelligence and social intelligence? Enlightened leaders tap into their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills to create a more fulfilling future.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Does brainstorming in teams at your organization increase creativity and innovation?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching as part of their transformational peak performance leadership development and team building programs.

Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-I, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help teams minimize groupthink and maximize creativity and high performance. You can become a leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.

About Dr. Maynard Brusman

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist, executive coach and trusted advisor to senior leadership teams. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies and law firms assess, select, coach, and retain emotionally intelligent leaders.  Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica. The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded Dr. Maynard Brusman "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.

For more information, please go to http://www.workingresources.com, write to mbrusman@workingresources.com, or call 415-546-1252.

Subscribe to Working Resources Newsletter: http://www.workingresources.com
Visit Maynard's Blog: http://www.workingresourcesblog.com  

Connect with me on these Social Media sites.
http://twitter.com/drbrusman
http://www.facebook.com/maynardbrusman

http://www.linkedin.com/in/maynardbrusman

http://www.youtube.com/user/maynardbrusman

 

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The Problem with Groupthink and Teams

Working Resources is a San Francisco Bay Area  Executive Coaching Firm Helping Innovative Companies and Law Firms Assess, Select, Coach, Engage  and Retain Emotionally Intelligent Leaders; Executive Coaching; Leadership Development; Performance-Based Interviewing; Competency Modeling; Succession Management; Culture Change; Career Coaching and Leadership Retreats

Dr. Maynard Brusman
Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach
Trusted Advisor to Senior Leadership Teams

 

Teamwork demands shared responsibility, but it also demands individual contributions. It fails if team members shelter behind the consensus.

 ~ Robert Heller, Founding Editor, Management Today

 

I recently spoke with the director of human resources at a San Francisco Bay Area company regarding providing executive coaching for the executive team. The director of human resourcesasked some very insightful questions to determine whether we were a good fit. She specifically wanted to know how I worked with different personality styles, and my methods for working with executive teams. She was very interested in my leadership development work with helping executive team deal with groupthink.

The director of human resources and I spoke about my approach to working with executive teams, and my belief that groupthink can sometimes impede creativity and innovation. We also spoke of the need for her organization to work with a management consultant to help their company create a culture where creativity and innovation thrives.

The director of human resources is interested in partnering with me in helping their executive team work more collaboratively while maximizing each leader’s individual creativity. We further discussed how other company executives could benefit by working with a seasoned executive coach.

Groupthink, originally researched by Yale University psychologist Irving Janis, is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within groups. It’s a mode of thinking that occurs when a decision-making group’s desire for harmony overrides its realistic appraisal of alternatives.

Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus, without critically evaluating additional ideas or viewpoints. Factors like group cohesiveness and situational context help determine whether groupthink will contaminate the decision-making process.

The negative cost of groupthink is loss of individual creativity, uniqueness and independent thinking. Organizationally, these consequences lead to costly errors in product launches, service policies and competitive strategies.

The New Groupthink

In “The Rise of the New Groupthink” (The New York Times, Jan.13, 2012), corporate attorney and author Susan Cain explains:

Solitude is out of fashion. Our companies, our schools and our culture are in thrall to an idea I call the New Groupthink, which holds that creativity and achievement come from an oddly gregarious place. Most of us now work in teams, in offices without walls, for managers who prize people skills above all. Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is in. 

There’s a problem with the view that all work should be conducted by teams. Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption. As Cain writes:

Anyone who has ever needed noise-canceling headphones in her own office or marked an online calendar with a fake meeting in order to escape yet another real one knows what I’m talking about.

It’s one thing when each member works autonomously on his piece of the puzzle; it’s another to be corralled into endless meetings or conference calls conducted in offices that afford no respite from coworkers’ conversations or gazes.

Are you working in a company where executive coaches and leadership consultants provide leadership development to develop emotionally intelligent leaders and teams? Does your organization provide executive coaching for leaders who need to increase their emotional intelligence and social intelligence? Enlightened leaders tap into their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills to create a more fulfilling future.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Does groupthink diminish the performance of our teams?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching as part of their transformational peak performance leadership development and team building programs.

Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-I, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can teams minimize groupthink and maximize creativity and high performance. You can become a leader who models emotionalintelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.

About Dr. Maynard Brusman

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist, executive coach and trusted advisor to senior leadership teams. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies and law firms assess, select, coach, and retain emotionally intelligent leaders.  Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica. The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded Dr. Maynard Brusman "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.

For more information, please go to http://www.workingresources.com, write to mbrusman@workingresources.com, or call 415-546-1252.

Subscribe to Working Resources Newsletter: http://www.workingresources.com
Visit Maynard's Blog: http://www.workingresourcesblog.com  

Connect with me on these Social Media sites.
http://twitter.com/drbrusman
http://www.facebook.com/maynardbrusman

http://www.linkedin.com/in/maynardbrusman

http://www.youtube.com/user/maynardbrusman

 

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How Groupthink Causes Teams to Fail

Working Resources is a San Francisco Bay Area  Executive Coaching Firm Helping Innovative Companies and Law Firms Assess, Select, Coach, Engage  and Retain Emotionally Intelligent Leaders; Executive Coaching; Leadership Development; Performance-Based Interviewing; Competency Modeling; Succession Management; Culture Change; Career Coaching and Leadership Retreats

Dr. Maynard Brusman
Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach
Trusted Advisor to Senior Leadership Teams

Teamwork demands shared responsibility, but it also demands individual contributions. It fails if team members shelter behind the consensus.

 ~ Robert Heller, Founding Editor, Management Today

I recently spoke with the director of human resources at a San Francisco Bay Area company regarding providing executive coaching and leadership development for the executive team. The director of human resourcesasked some very insightful questions to determine whether we were a good fit. She specifically wanted to know how I worked with different personality styles, and my methods for working with executive teams. She was very interested in my leadership development work with helping executive team deal with groupthink.

The director of human resources and I spoke about my approach to working with executive teams, and my belief that groupthink can sometimes diminish creativity and innovation. We also spoke of the need for her organization to work with a management consultant to help their company create a culture where creativity and innovation thrives.

The director of human resources is interested in partnering with me in helping their executive team work more collaboratively while maximizing each leader’s individual creativity. We further discussed how other company executives could benefit by working with a seasoned executive coach.

A recent survey found that 91 percent of high-level managers believe teams are the key to success. But the evidence doesn’t always support this assertion. Many teamwork-related problems remain hidden from view.

Every team thinks it does its best work when the stakes are highest. On the contrary, pressures to perform drive people toward safe solutions that are justifiable, rather than innovative.

Corporations increasingly organize workforces into teams, a practice that gained popularity in the ’90s. By 2000, roughly half of all U.S. organizations used teams; today, virtually all do.

Some teams work together from remote locations, relying on technical communication aids, such as web conferencing and email. Others demand a tremendous amount of face-to-face interaction, including team-building retreats, shared online calendars, meetings and physical workspaces that afford little privacy.

“Innovation—the heart of the knowledge economy—is fundamentally social,” writes prominent journalist Malcolm Gladwell.

Management expert Peter Drucker, who coined the term “knowledge worker,” points out that while people have always worked in tandem, “teams become the work unit rather than the individual himself” in knowledge work.

Working in teams has definite advantages:

  • Improved information-sharing
  • Better decisions, products and services
  • Higher employee motivation and engagement

There are, however, several barriers to achieving great work from teams:

  • Some individuals are faster (or better) on key tasks.
  • Developing and maintaining teams can prove costly.
  • Some individuals do less work, relying on others to complete assigned tasks.

Most corporate leaders nonetheless believe the benefits of teamwork far outweigh the costs.

Are you working in a company where executive coaches and leadership consultants provide leadership development to develop emotionally intelligent leaders and teams? Does your organization provide executive coaching for leaders who need to increase their emotional intelligence and social intelligence? Enlightened leaders tap into their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills to create a more fulfilling future.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Does groupthink diminish the performance of our teams?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching as part of their transformational peak performance leadership development and team building programs.

Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-I, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can teams minimize groupthink and maximize creativity and high performance. You can become a leader who models emotionalintelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.

About Dr. Maynard Brusman

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist, executive coach and trusted advisor to senior leadership teams. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies and law firms assess, select, coach, and retain emotionally intelligent leaders.  Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica. The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded Dr. Maynard Brusman "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.

For more information, please go to http://www.workingresources.com, write to mbrusman@workingresources.com, or call 415-546-1252.

Subscribe to Working Resources Newsletter: http://www.workingresources.com
Visit Maynard's Blog: http://www.workingresourcesblog.com  

Connect with me on these Social Media sites.
http://twitter.com/drbrusman
http://www.facebook.com/maynardbrusman

http://www.linkedin.com/in/maynardbrusman

http://www.youtube.com/user/maynardbrusman

 

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Leading Is Like Playing the Guitar

Every time I’ve picked up the guitar to play or practice I’ve first had to tune it. Then there is the varied humidity during the summer months, which makes the string tensions more varied than at other times of the year. If I don't tune it, it's off-key.

Leading people is a lot like tuning a guitar. Each string has to be adjusted differently. Some are very far out of tune while others just need a slight tweak to get them back.

This morning with the guitar hanging from my neck I looked down at the tuner on the edge of the guitar’s body and began to test and adjust each string.

After tuning the second string my focus pulled back slightly and I saw the entire six strings in full view and I recognized them as a unit, a team. And, I realized these were the ‘team members’ I needed to help me achieve my goal of playing the guitar properly in tune and delivering a melody that was pleasant to listen to.

I then realized that the act of tuning the guitar is similar to leading a team of people.

Each one is different, in terms of its size, weight, texture, tension, strength and the sound it makes. Each one also has strengths in certain situations and weaknesses in others.

Just like the people we lead in organizations.

Some days our people are in tune. Some days they need tuning. Some days they are ready to go and some days they need an attitude or motivation adjustment.

One day last week right in the middle of playing a song, one of the strings broke and I had to replace it with a new string. Sometimes that happens to our team members, too.

In leadership it's important to remember that every person on our team is a unique human being with dreams, desires, aspirations, personal frailties and insecurities, but also great strengths and unique abilities.

As leaders we need to learn how to play those we lead. I don’t mean in a manipulative, condescending way, but in a way that helps bring out the best in them.

We need to get to know them so that we can help them fine tune their own approach, their attitudes, their skills and knowledge so they can help us, in conjunction with their co-workers/teammates to play beautiful music for our organizations.

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Teamwork Never Fails, Individuals Fail Teamwork

In the 2004 Summer Olympics, the Australian Women's Eight rowing team stood in fifth place, three seconds behind the leading Romanian crew team 500 meters from the finish line.  When the Aussie’s were inside 400 meters one of the eight women quit rowing. She dropped her oars and laid back resting her head on the lap of the rower seated behind her.

The Aussies finished dead last, 10 seconds behind the next closest finisher.

Ever feel like one of your teammates isn’t pulling their weight in your company?

How do you feel when company leaders continue to look the other way and fail to hold team members accountable to their performance? Or worse, they call a meeting to preach to the group about teamwork, working together and supporting one another to get the job done?

Well, it even happens at the Olympic level of teamwork.

As a matter of fact, this was not the first time this woman quit on her team. She did it just two years earlier in the World Rowing Championships.

There are few athletic events where one person can make such a dramatic difference in the team’s performance by not “pulling their weight.” Rowing is certainly one of them (my wife reminds me of this fact every time we get into a two-person kayak) and offers a great example of what happens in business when employees do not work together to help their company, department or division achieve its goals.

The challenge in business is that few company leaders really understand “teamwork.” That’s because the concept of teamwork is amorphous. It’s much "pornography" as defined by Justice Stewart in Jacobellis Vs Ohio (1964) when he said, "I can't define pornography, but I know it when I see it."

Teamwork may not be easy to define, but we know it when we see it. And, it provides a tremendous sense of fulfillment when we experience it.

Teamwork, in a business sense, just like an Olympic crew team is about everyone "rowing together" with every individual pulling their own weight fulfilling their individual, and sometimes unique, team role. It is the synergistic effect of individuals doing what is required of them, individually, that results in desired outcomes being achieved and goals being met.

So where does teamwork come into it then?  Does it exist?  In a sense yes, if we define teamwork as the result of necessary individual unique efforts combining to achieve a predetermined goal. And no if we define teamwork as a group of people who spend time together in the work environment in meeting after meeting to discuss their "team goals" or to create that sense of "team spirit".

In today’s global economy individuals may not even come into contact with each other. Daily communication may be limited to one email. For example, a sales person in one country can forward an order to production in another, then production hands let transport in another city know the finished product is ready for delivery of the building materials to a building site. These people don't even work in the same department, the same city, and some not even in the same country. Teamwork? They may not even have met one another. Yet, it doesn’t matter if teamwork is redefined to get it right.

That’s why it's vital for business leaders today to understand and define “teamwork” in a much different manner than they may be used to.

This is why an off-site “team building” activity such as low ropes courses, and the like, fail to provide much of a return on investment. They are great activities to build a camaraderie, to a certain extent, but unless the foundation of individual performance expectations with specific measurable accountabilities that are managed to, are in place, they actually do more harm, than good.

Therefore, the key to great teamwork in business, and athletics, is to have everyone knowing what is expected of them and fulfilling that responsibility to the expected standard of performance. It is the successful result of fulfilling their job description, combined with everyone else in the department or company fulfilling their respective job descriptions, that results in these combined efforts achieving company goals. 

That is "teamwork."

Looked at in that perspective, you can see every employee as a "rower". If one person drops their oars, or fails to follow through when others are counting on them, it means those relying on them can't complete their own tasks… it has a domino effect.

To apply our earlier example of the building materials manufacturer, the transport department wears abuse from management who has fielded complaints from unhappy customers who did not receive their expected orders. Transport failed to do what was required because they didn't receive the instructions on the goods to be delivered from Production. Production didn't know anything about it because Sales did not send the information through. Sales didn't do that because they took an unauthorized extended lunch break that day to celebrate a colleague's engagement.  In not pulling their weight and doing what was required of them, they let "the team" down.

Most all of us have experienced something similar at some point in our life when working on a team.

That is why I always say…Teamwork never fails, individuals fail teamwork!

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