J. Miller and Company Blog

October 11, 2008

Go ahead – speak up!

Over the past three weeks, I’ve had the privilege and opportunity to do what I most love: facilitate group think tanks!  Remodelers Advantage, with whom I’ve worked since 2003, provides the structure for 12 or so non-competitive remodeling companies from around the country to meet twice yearly and de-construct / re-construct member company’s as well as individual member’s morale.  It’s exciting, challenging, exhausting and ultimately exhilarating.  We’ve just completed two strong meetings during that period – one for companies seeking high growth: members are some of the most admired and emulated in the country.  The second for companies seeking to join that august league of the most respected remodeling companies in the country.

Both groups strive for many of the same goals: predictable profits sufficient to maintain strong company culture, branded images in the community which reflect fierce customer loyalty, high owner satisfaction and good work/life balance.  Good and enviable goals, all!

But what separates these groups apart from many others – and what defines a key component of the Remodelers Advantage philosophy – is the degree to which respectful disagreement is encouraged.

After reading the wonderful book “The Founding Brothers” years ago, I began to pay great attention to the manner and timeliness in which disagreement was voiced, whether between individuals or groups.

These two meetings showed how well it can be done.  Without exception, the combined 25 members of the two groups experienced the most dramatic outcomes to the degree they practiced respectful disagreement.

To understand more about the subject, I researched it today and found the following article:

http://www.tcp-uk.co.uk/creative_articles_nemeth.htm#Creativity%20in%20groups:%20the%20role%20of%20dissent

To quote:

“… groups can actually stimulate creativity and better problem solving on the part of each of the individuals. The key is the presence of dissent, of exposure to minority viewpoints that are assumed to be incorrect, that are likely to be ridiculed and that are likely to invoke rejection. Such minority views stimulate more complex thinking, better problem solving and more creativity.

One aspect of good problem solving is a willingness to search the available information and, importantly, to search it in a relatively unbiased way. When we are faced with a majority dissent, we tend to look for information that corroborates the majority view. However, when the dissent comes from the minority, it stimulates us to reassess the entire issue and, in the process, search for information on all sides of the issue. In addition to information search, minority views have also been found to stimulate what we call “divergent thought,” where people are more likely to consider the issue from various perspectives.

Still other studies demonstrate that minority viewpoints stimulate original thought. Thoughts are more “unique”—that is, less conventional. People exposed to minority views are also more likely to come up with original solutions or judgments.”   [End quote]

Why does it matter? It pays, during difficult or simpler times, to make the best decisions … especially when the risks are great.  Obviously then, group input assists with difficult decisions to the degree that alternative points of view are not just voiced but intensely discussed.

How to use this information.  Compile a list of the most important decisions you currently face.  Ask three or four of your most trusted friends and advisers to prioritize and comment on each.  Assure them that the degree to which they raise the most provocative and demanding challenges to your thinking will be of greatest benefit to you.  Offer to sit in the same position for them.

Then move forward knowing that you’ve taken advantage of the greatest creativity available to you … respectful disagreement.

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