Home > 7 habits, Agile, Kanban, scrum > Mistaking group thought for collective intelligence

Mistaking group thought for collective intelligence

Sometimes you become a part of tightly knit team. You seem to almost think the same things and solutions just comes flowing. What you probably have felt is something Daniel Goleman in his book Social Intelligence refer to as Rapport. It’s one of the most rewarding social connections and the ability to Rapport is a crucial part of social intelligence and well being. And often a team with Rapport can be very productive.

But there are also risks. As James Surowiecki points out in The Wisdom of Crowds, this forming of the tight, homogenous group gives ground to group thought in a negative sense. Surowiecki gives a lot of examples of when group thought stops innovative ideas from being realized or even thought or expressed. The fear of breaking the group thought is perhaps not obvious or even realized, but is there. If you break that precious bond, you lose that comfy feeling. We’ve all been in that situation too. We have that small, tight group and in comes the Outsider with the Outsidish idea. What an idiot. He knows Nothing. We’ve already tried that. But we are the experts. And so on. The outsider must in many cases chose between aligning and thereby just provide ideas which are in line with what is acceptable ideas within the group or stay an outsider.

What can be elusive is that the tight group might not be without conflicts or debates. The principle is that the alternatives are just within the acceptance range of the group. And thereby many great ideas are never explored.

According to Surowiecki, it is key to keep groups heterogeneous to harvest the collective intelligence instead of the narrow group thought.

These books really got me thinking about groups and teams. Agile software development is all about creating the most business value for the least effort and here is probably an important key factor. How to use the collective intelligence and still have the comfort and calm which Rapport brings. And how to minimize the negative effects of group thought. Working with the 7 Habits gives me a lot of tools but I will probably struggle with the Scrum team idea. Scrum teams are supposed to be cross border but how often are they really? And if they become true teams, how homogenous will they not become? Not that Kanban or other methods are better in this perspective.

Well, I have something to work with next year!

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