The Power of a Group

March 22, 2009 | By | Add a Comment

You are the leader of your team, your department or your organisation. You are the owner and amongst you all, no one can do the job; run the place, like you do. We all know that and have been there.

It’s tough because someone has to do it.

In fact it’s a struggle and because you are building something worthwhile, someone once told you that you don’t get anywhere without hard work.

Period; full stop; whatever.

In fact there is a lot of research now that shows you are wrong. Not just a bit wrong. Horribly wrong.

In ‘The Wisdom of Crowds’ by Robert Surowiecki, he quotes a number of sources of information. Like, if you compare the performance of a team of experts with a team of half experts and half not experts, which gives the best results?

It’s the second one.

If you have a bunch of people working on a problem will they find a better solution than just one person. They will. In fact as long as they have the following attributes:-

  • Diversity of Opinion – each has their own private information
  • Independence – from other decision makers
  • Decentralisation – can take into account local (and hence diverse from the big picture)
  • Aggregation – the capacity to bring together all this variety of opinion

A crowd will always generate the best result – even if they are disparate and not connected in any way!

So, how can you go about getting the best from a group of your people, to enhance what you do?

The findings that Surowiecki brought up are no different in your business and organisation than the many examples he shares. Such as elections, marketing, gambling etc.

There are dozens in the book. Yet, how many organisations truly involve their people in making vital decisions about how the business can do better?

So, as a starter for 10, try asking them.

Next time you face a problem or challenge in your business, gather a group of people – as random a group as possible and give them these three tools and let them get on with it.

Ensure that they are different, empowered and encouraged to contribute. From the evidence from Surowiecki’s book, your people are almost definitely going to produce a better result than you alone ever could. Then you have to go with that flow.

Remember they must generate a solution that works, that doesn’t generate new problems and is cost-effective. If you give them their head, it is almost a given that they will do just that.

The challenge for you is not whether they will do well; more that you are willing to let up your own control and give them the opportunity to test their solution.

And that’s a big ask for you – not them.

The book is a worthy read too!

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