A Small Change to Avoid Big Mistakes from Groupthink 

by Beth Skorochod, CollaborateUp’s Director of Practice

The meeting is the most fundamental form of human collaboration. You really can’t get anything significant done that involves more than one person without a meeting at some point. But meetings are tricky; they can become an utter waste of time before you even realize it, veering quickly from purposeful discussion into sucksville.

The good news is meeting don’t have to suck. With a few stalwart facilitation skills, you can take a meeting from an energy-sapping waste of time to something productive, with decisive, actionable outcomes.
 
One of the biggest pitfalls in a meeting can be the desire for consensus. While agreement on key decisions can be necessary, too often meetings devolve into irrational conformity without debate or discussion.
 
There’s a quick and easy process we use at CollaborateUp to short-circuit this groupthink and still get varying input and perspective from participants. While it doesn’t have a branded name, it’s the “non-passion vote.” In passion voting, participants assess the ideas or concepts scribbled on sticky notes clinging to the nearest flat surface, then vote with stickers or tick marks on those they are most passionate about. The problem here, is that these public votes are like dominoes, they tend to follow the ones before, clustering votes according to the early voters rather than the way participants actually feel. No one wants to vote for a concept that no one else has chosen.

How does ‘non-passion voting’ work?

  • Start by setting the terms of the vote:
    • What are they voting on? What they think is of greatest impact/ROI? What they themselves want to do? What they think is most feasible?
    • Be transparent about the impact of the vote: is it a democratic vote and the outcome will determine next steps? Is it a poll that decision-makers will take into account but aren’t bound by? Something in between?
  • Then number the ideas or concepts that participants need to rank or vote on
  • Ask participants to take a few minutes to review the concepts, then silently write down the number or numbers that correspond to the ideas they feel most meet the terms of the vote
  • The facilitator tallies these anonymous votes and reveals the winner or winners
  • The ‘winner’ may be the idea that moves forward, or it may not be. Depending on who is the ultimate decision maker, that person may choose to respect the votes or not. Either way, everyone’s authentic voice was heard.

Easy peasy.

While not perfect, this voting style is fast and is likely better than the outcomes of doing it the old way.  This works because it gives people some quiet time to review and think about the ideas. Silently writing down your votes ensures that you won’t be swayed when someone you respect votes for something else, or that you won’t change your mind when you realize no one voted for the idea that you love.
 
Try it out in your next meeting and see how it works for you.