Monday, November 11, 2013

Four Key Questions to Encourage High-Caliber Group Decision Making

Many leaders of small and medium businesses say that they want to involve their employees in the decision making process. However, few leaders actually tap into the collective wisdom of their subordinates, which James Surowiecki calls "the wisdom of the crowds." Crowdsourced intelligence helps leaders to make smarter and faster decisions. To benefit from crowd wisdom, managers must first cultivate wise crowds.

Setting the Tone for Smarter, Faster Group Decision Making

Before tapping the wisdom of the crowds, managers should reflect on whether their management styles encourage independent thinking. Four good questions to ask include:
  1. Does my management style encourage diversity of opinions? Employees should feel comfortable bringing their own perspectives into any group decision making process.
  2. Do I encourage my team to express their opinions even if they differ from my own? Teams need to know that their honest, uncensored opinions will be weighed without any retaliation from management.
  3. Do I maintain a good balance between control and decentralization? While managers do need to make some unilateral decisions, they should maintain a structure within small and medium businesses that empowers team members to make their own choices.
  4. Do I have a tool that can turn employee opinions into collective decision making? Instead of walking around and asking certain individuals their opinions about a decision, management should utilize a tool that allows everyone to feel involved. The solution should provide some visualization of employee input so that team member opinions become tangible.
Giving Up Control
True crowdsourced intelligence thrives in a decentralized environment. If the workplace is divided into "decision makers" and "those who carry out decisions," then employees won't gain confidence in either their independent opinions or their ability to speak with authority. Also, decentralization teaches employees to trust one another. Forcing compliance from the top cultivates suspicion, not trust.

Giving decision making power to the crowd means giving up some control of the outcome. However, by encouraging autonomy among employees, managers access true human wisdom instead of parroted statements of support. Ask employees for opinions, and give them the visualization tools that bring their input to life. Before anything else, however, empower them to think for themselves.

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