Have you considered group influence as a contributor to your business’ success? A study [PDF] submitted to the 2008 International Conference on Information Systems found a strong relationship between group cohesion and productivity. The closer your team is, the higher their productivity and job satisfaction, which both contribute to a company’s success. Here are three ways you can use the power of groups to your advantage.
1. Hire Team Players
When you’re interviewing candidates to hire, you likely focus on on their individual attributes. But Michael Bond, author of The Power of Others, says this can be a mistake since “the thing you really want to know is how well they’re going to apply them when they’re working in your office, and how well they will integrate with the rest of your team.”
They might ace the one-on-one interview but flounder in group situations. To prevent learning this the hard way, group interviews might be an option, or, Bond advises, “the best approach could be to throw them in at the deep end and have them join the business for a couple of days and monitor how they get on.”
2. Invite Different Points of View
A harmonious group can lead to greater productivity. But at the other extreme is what happens when groups are too harmonious. They became vulnerable to a dynamic called, “groupthink.” This occurs when group pressure causes poor decision making. “Because harmony and cohesion feel good, there’s a strong incentive to maintain them at the expense of everything else,” Bond says. “Team members are reluctant to raise issues or ask questions that might threaten the consensus. They go out of their way to avoid dissent, which is dangerous because it means you end up ignoring problems that might threaten the success of your company.”
A good example of that is what happened to Lehman Brothers in 2008 when it filed one of the largest bankruptcies in history. “People who worked there have claimed that the strong culture of in-house loyalty inspired by CEO Richard Fuld made it very difficult to challenge the status quo,” says Bond. “Managers missed obvious signs of dysfunction, or failed to point them out to their colleagues.”
Bond says one way to prevent groupthink from infecting your business is to take note of Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt’s method of dealing with it. “He picks out the individuals who don’t speak much at meetings and gets them to say what they think, because he reckons they may well be harboring dissenting views that they’re afraid to voice.”
3. Create an Interactive Environment
To engage employees, Bond recommends that you “consider the design and layout of your office.” Getting rid of traditional assigned cubicles and desks can invite employees to venture into different parts of the office and interact with their co-workers. This, in return, leaves room for creativity and inspiration. When you change employees’ physical environment, you also encourage creativity and social connection, he says.