(the series on Employee Engagement will continue later)
Organizational dynamics are full of ‘default thinking’. We assume that some things are always good. Take collaboration. Have you ever heard that collaboration is bad? Probably not. However, think twice. Imagine great, cohesive, ‘high performance’ collaboration between obstructive people, between terrorists, between disgruntled employees. Get the picture?
Another area of ‘default thinking’ is group discussions. Of course we want them. In fact, we are very fond of them in organizations. They are part of the ‘openness’ and ‘transparency’ drivers that everybody want in that perennial Father Christmas letter that leaders never cease to write.
The way we approach these ‘discussions with the team’ is often rather naïve. For example, if you start from a baseline of, say, belief that ‘we have a problem’, chances are that the group discussion will end up with everybody believing that you have a much, much bigger problem. The phenomenon is called ‘group polarization’ and has been studied in social sciences for many years. Literally the group converts beliefs (and decisions) into more extreme views than the individually held ones.
The process is a mixture of many things, but confirmation bias plays a good part. People hear what they want to hear and look for self-reinforcing mechanisms constantly. In the digital world this is amplified in exponential terms.
In the organization, try to avoid full blown discussions on a potentially important issue by bringing in that issue naked to the table. Try to have discussions with individual members, perhaps duos or trios, before hand. At the very least you will know what their baseline view are. What people say in groups is almost never a true reflection of their individual positions.