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Meetings Make You Dumber 207

Posted by Zonk
from the not-cumulatively-thank-everything dept.
Maximum Prophet writes "Robert Heinlein once said that the committee was the only life form in the universe with three or more bellies and no brain. MSNBC reports that his statement may have some statistical truth to it. Researchers are finding that meetings are actually bad places to be creative. You're not actually 'dumber' when you're in the meeting, just more likely to lose your creative edge. Studies have now shown that, as collaborative primates, the more often a possibility is mentioned the more likely the group is to go along with it. Individuals placed by themselves were more likely to come up with imaginative alternatives to products, for example."
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Meetings Make You Dumber

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  • by Timesprout (579035) on Friday February 23, 2007 @01:42PM (#18125656)
    Their function is to seek consenus, bring us all up to speed, get everyone reading from the same page, allocate division of labour etc.
  • by ShrapnelFace (1001368) <shrever@neuraldisruption.com> on Friday February 23, 2007 @01:44PM (#18125692)
    It's called "Group Think" and it was a major factor of evidence in the destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia. We've already read this, been over this, and done this. Is this a presentation of a new idea, or an idea restated in a new light?

    Either way, it's always a good idea to realize that in most cases, people are in a situation to satisfy themselves first, then those who are most related to that self next.

    I find that in meetings I lead, I spend more time chairing the discussion than growing the actual discussion from the seeds of creation. Group think tends to be the by-product of that one person in your meeting who wont let go of their own idea and continues to bludgeon the group into submission.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 23, 2007 @01:54PM (#18125866)
    "the more often a possibility is mentioned the more likely the group is to go along with it."

    Iraq...9-11...Iraq...9-11...9-11...Iraq...Iraq...9 -11...
  • by hotdiggitydawg (881316) on Friday February 23, 2007 @01:56PM (#18125904)
    If you're working in an environment like that, why wouldn't you want to get out anyway?

    Every place I've worked (so far), I have in fact been rewarded for coming up with better alternatives to the boss's suggestions, and I've never once been punished for disagreement. Thing is, you have to earn their respect before you can do that...
  • by ivan256 (17499) on Friday February 23, 2007 @02:02PM (#18125994)
    So you get out and get another job.

    Believe it or not, there are workplaces where it is safe to voice opposition as long as you do what you're told once the decision is made. Your boss shouldn't mind that you tell him it's a bad idea to port your product to the latest trendy language for no good reason, but once he decides that's what the company is doing, you better deliver, 'cause that's what you're being paid for. It's when you refuse to drop it once a decision has been made that you should have to worry about losing your job.

    In my experience, most workplaces are like this, and there is always some whiner that doesn't know when to drop it and get to work who thinks that their opinion (rather than their behavior or performance) is what got them in trouble.
  • by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Friday February 23, 2007 @02:14PM (#18126174) Journal
    You just have to respond appropriately to those concerns in a constructive manner.

    Think its dangerous? Suggest marketing it to the 18-24 demographic and an "extreme" advertising comparing while continuing to evaluate the potential liability throughout focus group tests.

    Think there isn't a market? Suggest a test marketing campaign " to see which market it would best be leveraged in" Then with firm data about its failure, suggest gradual improvements until the device is no longer a hoola hoop and is now a covert ops weapon marketed to the Military, or until the company has moved on to the next gadget.

    Think you can't give more than 100%? It depends what you define as 100%. Just schedule 30% of your time to reading slashdot and count the remaining 70% your total available time, then stop reading slashdot and boom now you are giving over 100% of your effort!

    Forget to clean the fridge? Easy defense, you cut out time to clean the fridge to give 130% of your time to the death-a-hoop while questioning the commitment of your not so committed " quote- unquote teammates" ( and actually say quote unquote while making air quotes).

    Thats my rules to success in any buisness
  • by TuringTest (533084) on Friday February 23, 2007 @02:22PM (#18126266) Journal
    Mob mentality (which is essentially what you see in meetings - people forced to make a decision as a whole rather than as individuals) is known to be 'stupider' than a single person acting rationally as a general rule.

    On the other hand, "swarm" decision-making based on the aggregate of individual decisions is known to be smarter than any single person. The point is not avoiding meetings or group work, the point is avoid common pitfalls and adopt a working style that deliveries results.
  • by drDugan (219551) * on Friday February 23, 2007 @02:23PM (#18126270) Homepage
    To those people with a basic understanding of human personality, this conclusion is obvious. The basic point here is that introverts are not able to function at their highest ability in real-time, face-to-face groups. Duh. . .

    It is interesting to note that in some other cultures, (like France, for example) introversion is respected and placed on an equal footing with extroversion. In the US, and in prevalent US-dominated world culture, extroversion is pushed almost exclusively as the norm. Most introverts are forced into physical spaces (cubicles) and interactions (meeting rooms) with lots of other people around. This leaves an introvert drained and unable to function at their highest ability. Also, the general expectation for most interactions is for real-time discussion (face to face or by phone) where extroverts have a distinct advantage solely because if their ability to respond faster verbally. Email is a notable exception to this in generally accepted practice, where the introverts have a distinct upper hand.

    Note: when I use the words introvert and extrovert here, I am not talking about the colloquial social definitions, nor the psychological disorder (maladaptive, overt) introversion, but rather the psychological typing used by MBTI, Keirsey, and other systems.
  • by Hijacked Public (999535) * on Friday February 23, 2007 @02:25PM (#18126314)
    I don't know what 'major factor of evidence' means in your context but I think Microsoft Powerpoint should shoulder more blame for the Columbia disaster than groupthink. Maybe I have been reading too much Edward Tufte though.

    You may want to consider that your definition of groupthink is overbroad. Part of how a business motivates its employees is to convince them to align their personal goals with those of the company. Done properly, satisfying oneself in a business setting means furthering the goals of the company.

    Rather than say that gets lost due to groupthink I would say that it gets lost amid all the ass covering and finger pointing that often goes on. In Columbia's case, Lockheed Martin's main goal during the investigation was not to uncover the actual cause but defend against any possibility that they might have been at fault. They offer up test results of their insulation hitting a part of the shuttle that the actual insulation didn't hit, then claim that their insulation could not possibly have caused enough damage to be a problem on reentry. Maybe groupthink led people to believe them, I don't know.

    So many companies are managed for the short term that this kind of thing is nearly impossible to prevent. The shuttle blows up, someone looks at a spreadsheet that shows the shuttle business is only 3% of revenue, so whatever future business LHM might have with NASA is sacrificed for the goal of protecting the company.
  • Re:Brainstorming (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Per Abrahamsen (1397) on Friday February 23, 2007 @04:30PM (#18128038) Homepage
    Works for me.

    > People are afraid to offend. People try to impress. People are afraid of sounding stupid.

    The participants needs to trust and respect each other first.

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