Groupthink “is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.”
As the definition suggests, this may be wonderful for peace and harmony (up to a point), but it leads to bad decisions.
Anyone who has ever worked in a team will be able to think of examples of groupthink. It is a pervasive and deeply destructive phenomenon.
But all of this is good news.
It means there’s a straightforward way to improve the quality of your collective decision-making: systematically incorporate dissent as an essential part of your decision-making process.
Our Dissent Service
You tell us what you want to subject to critical scrutiny.
It could be an argument, a belief, an idea, a vision, a policy, a program: anything at all.
We will reconstruct it to be the best possible version of itself (this is sometimes called “steel manning”).
Once we have that in place, we will give you compelling arguments for why the argument / belief / idea / vision / policy / program is wrong.
Then we discuss those arguments and go through the process again, until we’re satisfied with the level of rigour that we’ve applied.
How We Deliver Dissent
Depending on the context and the need, we deliver our dissent service in different ways.
First: we deliver it as a report / presentation.
Second: we deliver it as a one-off session where we use the initial report as a starting point for a focused development of the disagreement.
Third: we deliver it as an ongoing service. We join meetings and discussions and assume the role of Chief Dissenting Officer.
Why We’re Good at This
One of our core skills is to disagree.
In fact, it’s more or less the job description.
This makes us annoying at parties but very good at overcoming groupthink.
Use Case: Speaking Truth to Power
Owner, CEO, Manager – whatever your title, you’re in charge. You tell people what to do. You hand out rewards. You decide how their working life goes.
Do you think the people you lead have incentives to tell you what they really think?
Most likely not. Which means you end up hearing what people think you want to hear. Which is eventually the death of your business.
And this is where we step in.
It’s not just that we’ll call bullshit on you – it’s that you’ll be paying us to do it.
If we stop calling bullshit, our service loses value. Which will eventually mean no one will pay us for it. So we are incentivized to be honest.
(Besides, we just really enjoy calling bullshit. We left academia because we were tired of the bullshit there, and we certainly didn’t do that to take bullshit in other places.)
Use Case: Decision-Making Processes
Every business has a process for making decisions (whether they know it or not).
Given the dangers of group-think, one low-cost and effective way of improving this process is simply to involve us in a specific role: the role of contrarian.
Now, anyone can just disagree (as the Monty Python sketch shows). We offer something much more valuable – reasoned disagreement in real-time.
In meetings, we will play the role of identifying assumptions, taking them apart, attacking premises, attacking underlying frameworks, rejecting shared beliefs, etc.