Many of us struggle to decide the best of times, even when we are the only one we need to listen to. Trying to gather together the thoughts and views of a group and come to a consensus decision is something every team can improve.
Harnessing the power of the collective intelligence and creativity of your team is an admirable goal. It is also just as tricky and fraught with problems. Along with collective intelligence comes the problem of organization and creating a scenario in which everyone can speak up and offer their views.
To be a group that makes efficient and effective decisions, no matter what the team does and what department they happen to work in, everyone needs a platform from which to contribute and to feel like they were a part of the process. Effective group decision-making only works if everyone in the group is active and engaged.
We all may think we are innovative and creative when it comes to generating ideas and designing strategies, or comprehensive when inventing solutions or improving ways of working. The reality is that even if we are more than capable of working alone there are times when working with others will help to bring further clarity and ingenuity to the fore. We need other people’s points of view to help us form a more comprehensive, to bounce ideas off of, and take inspiration from.
People will naturally approach a problem or a creative situation with different experiences, knowledge, and energies. Hence, it simply makes sense to collect all of those elements together so we can make more informed and in many ways data-driven decisions. This might be the best way to think about group decision-making. You are gathering together more data in the form of experience, thoughts, opinions, and ideas.
So let’s look at some of the ways you can optimize your group’s decision-making process. We've also included some presentation templates you can use to help you achieve these goals.
Sharing is not always the easiest thing for many to do; many prefer to fade into the background and let others do the talking. The problem is that often these people can have invaluable input that can offer a vital perspective. Group discussion can be dominated by those with the most confidence while those with the most valuable input keep their thoughts to themselves.
Creating a safe space that encourages everyone to participate and allows everyone to feel at ease with contributing, will go a long way to helping you to gather all the necessary opinions together. To make the best decisions you need to hear from everyone so make sure you don’t deprive yourself of anyone’s contributions.
Part of creating a safe space and an environment that encourages participation is by allowing people to do so anonymously. Anonymity can provide an additional layer of comfort and safety that will bring natural introverts out of their shells or those who lack confidence and a well-needed boost.
Combining this with a tool or software that lets participants, voters, and everyone and anyone take part, in the same manner, can prove itself invaluable. This can act as a confidence crutch for many who are nervous about speaking in front of a group, even if it is a group of their colleagues.
If you want to come to effective and informed decisions then you need to encourage some creative thinking in the hopes of generating plenty of innovative ideas, solutions, and possibilities. If people only think within the box, they are constrained to a small series of possibilities they can all agree upon.
By introducing various ideas you may be able to compromise more effectively. The more creative and innovative the ideas then the more effective and creative the decision may well be. Consider starting the group off with some creative thinking exercises or ways to promote creative and imaginative thinking.
Our previous two tips have been hinting at this but now we can highlight just how vital this point is. Gathering input from everyone is one of if not the most vital part of a good and strong decision-making process for any group. Decisions are best when everyone can analyze solutions and ideas and then work out alternatives, give feedback on ideas, and work together to brainstorm.
Nowadays data-driven decisions have become more important than ever before and many companies say they are driven by data. As we mentioned, you should have this as a way of gathering more data.
Speaking of data-driven decisions, if you want your group to be more effective and efficient then you need to provide them with up-to-date, accurate, and complete information. To make good decisions we need to be adequately informed and have all the necessary information and context.
If you are looking to brainstorm tactics for a new project then people need to know the scope, the main stakeholders, and the expectations. If you're in crisis-management mode then people need to know the scale of the problem, what solutions are already in place, and what the timeline is. Without this vital information is it’s pretty much impossible for a group to make any kind of decision, let alone an effective one.
Brainstorming and the ideation phase is likewise a crucial part of the decision-making process. You need original ideas and thoughts to give you something to decide upon, that’s a relatively simple concept. A common pitfall of these types of meetings is that they are all about creativity and lack the follow-up and direction that is often required.
Workshops and brainstorming also, while being an essential part of the process, can get too hung up on the ideation phase. Incorporating next steps, or follow-up meetings and actions is the perfect way to keep everyone enthusiastic about the project and to make the whole process all the more smooth. Coming out of these meetings with follow-up actions or a plan of attack will make these and future meetings all the more beneficial.
If you need some inspiration on how you can brainstorm better then we have all the answers for you.
So now it’s time to gather everyone together and try to pool your collective intelligence. This is the important moment when you can go and come to a wonderful consensus decision that everyone agrees with and that best sets you up for success. So we really cannot understate the importance of this meeting.
If this is to be the main meeting then you need to structure it well, have a clear goal, and plan for that eventual outcome. You will need to ensure that all relevant parties are invited, that a well-prepared agenda is sent (to make sure everyone is on the same page), that you prepare exercises and activities that let everyone voice their opinion and a way to document the group's thoughts and eventual decision.
This is not an easy thing to do but by being as prepared as possible then you set yourself up for success. The goal of this meeting is to leave with a final decision, thus you have to put yourself and the group in the best position to do so.
While there are countless benefits to group-decision and consensus decision-making, there are pitfalls that we want to avoid. Groupthink may be the most significant and the most obvious. For those unaware of the issue, groupthink is when people respond just to appease the group rather than to offer their unique views.
Now there are countless ways you can counteract and avoid groupthink and many of the tips we have listed above should help you do just that. Transparency, anonymity, and openness are characteristics of a good meeting that will let people feel they don’t need to just conform and that they can actually offer a unique and possible contradictory perspective. Remember that consensus is only a good thing it’s not because of people trying to placate others, but because you have reached an optimal finding.
There are of course a number of factors we need to bear in mind when trying to bring a group together in the hopes of solving a problem or generating some new creative idea.
We highlighted this as one of our tips earlier on in this piece and organization is a vital part of the decision-making process. The person running the meeting needs to be organized, and those taking part need to be informed, ready to take part, and as prepared as necessary. If there is poor organization then how can we expect a group to make an effective and informed decision?
A group is only as strong as their faith and trust in one another. If people are going to contribute then they will need to believe that their teammates and colleagues will listen to them and take their suggestions and input seriously. Likewise, working well together will help to make the decision-making process more efficient and adequate.
People will want to have their say in matters and offer up some insights and input. You can build trust and teamwork in a team by highlighting the importance of listening and actively developing that skill. Oftentimes, we hear what we want to hear when others speak but by developing our active listening skills groups can collaborate better and thus make better decisions.
If everyone refuses to compromise then nothing will ever be achieved. This is quite a simple fact. To compromise we must be able to admit that our ideas can and should be challenged, as should those that others raise. Compromising does not necessarily mean succeeding completely but it means working out a solution that works for everyone and that everyone can agree on - perhaps not completely but at least to an acceptable level.
There you have it! Now you have absolutely everything you could need to know to make a well-informed decision. But if you need any more help then remember we are here!