Comment on the New Yorker article “Groupthink: The Brainstorming Myth”

In our book Top Teaming: A Roadmap for Leadership Teams Navigating the Now, the New, and the Next, we talk about the importance of Collective Intelligence (CI) as one of the benefits of a real Top Team.  This is the practice of utilizing real diversity of thought, style, experience, personality, etc. in working together to address and resolve difficult current and emerging issues and raising the bar of success in determining how to bring evolution and innovation to the business.

And in fact one of the greatest differentiators between adequate teams and Top Teams is how good they are in harnessing and integrating their members’ CI and wisdom that is largely accomplished through the process of both deliberate and informal dialogue.

Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, explains that the acceleration of evolution over the past forty-five thousand years—what we refer to as progress—is not explainable by evolution alone. Ridley states,

“Rather, it is due to collective intelligence: the notion that what determines the inventiveness and the rate of cultural change of a population is the amount of    interaction between individuals.” He postulates that the “sophistication of the modern world lies not in individual intelligence or imagination, it is a collective enterprise that relies on exchange”—of ideas, thoughts, and commerce.”

How we mine and utilize the collective IQ of a team is one of the great differentiators between good teams and Top Teams. How we do this is largely dependent on creating a deliberate atmosphere, clear expectations, and agreed-upon processes that can drive the requisite dialogue forward. And this has to occur in a climate that is diverse enough in its experience and specializations that formal and informal exchange among members produces real value.

Yet one source of confusion and debate is around the difference between “groupthink” in which teams of people unconsciously conspire to agree with one another, and the process of Collective Intelligence which is a different and, perhaps, more difficult and messy process altogether.

And so below is a link to a great article in the March 2012 edition of The New Yorker Magazine by Jonah Lehrer entitled “Groupthink: The Brainstorming Myth.”

Read and enjoy.  And please tell me what you think.

Leave a Comment