Leading Blog






06.26.08

What’s the Hidden Danger of Being the Brightest Person In the Room?

Yes!
Leaders in organizations who are dealing with a specific issue or problem should ensure that they collaborate with team members toward its resolution, even if they are the best-informed, most experienced, or most-skilled person in the group. Not to do so would be fool-hardy.

In fact, behavioral scientist Patrick Laughlin and his colleagues have shown that the approaches and outcomes of groups who cooperate in seeking a solution are not just better than the average member working alone, but are even better than the group’s best problem solver working alone. Far too often, leaders-who, by virtue of greater experience, skill, and wisdom, deem themselves the ablest problem solver in the group—fail to ask for input from team members.

The research conducted by Laughlin and his colleagues tells us why the best leader operating individually will be beaten to a correct solution by an all-inclusive cooperating unit.

First, lone decision-makers can’t match the diversity of knowledge and perspectives of a multi-person unit that includes them.

Second, the solution seeker who goes it alone loses another significant advantage—the power of parallel processing. Whereas a cooperating unit can distribute many subtasks of a problem to its members, a lone operator must perform each task sequentially.

But isn’t full collaboration risky? After all, decisions made completely by committee are notorious for suboptimal performance, Mindful of that problem, our recommendation is not to employ a vote-counting strategy in order to come to a resolution; in fact the recommendation is not for making joint decisions at all. The final choice is always for the leader to make. But it’s the process of seeking input that leaders should engage in more collectively.

In Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive authors Noah Goldstein, Steve Martin and Robert Cialdini, tackle a lot of interesting questions regarding the art and science of persuasion. For example, they ask what common mistake causes messages to self-destruct? The answer is found in the answer to why a sign pointing out the problem of vandalism in the Petrified National Park actually increased the theft of pieces of petrified wood. What we learn is to focus our communications on the fact that there are a lot of people doing the right thing and build on that. You will find a lot of good practical insights here.

Adapted from Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by Noah Goldstein, Steve Martin and Robert Cialdini.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:15 PM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Problem Solving



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