Groups; Meetings; Communicating – You’re Doing It Wrong! – (Insight From Wiser By Sunstein And Hastie)


Slate.com has an occasional “You’re doing it wrong” article. What a smart, good, right-on-target series.

Their articles are usually on day-to-day tasks, like “You’re doing it wrong: scrambled eggs.”

WiserI thought of this Slate series as I was reading Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter by Cass R. Sunstein and Reid Hastie, my selection for the March First Friday Book Synopsis. Their basic premise is this: we are doing groups wrong. Here’s a sample, from the book:

The good news is that if discussion is properly structured and if groups adopt the right norms and practices, they can create that culture. The bad news is that in the real world, discussion often leads people in the wrong directions. Many groups fail to correct the mistakes of their members.

The book points out quite a few ways we are doing groups wrong, and points us toward some correctives in the direction of doing things right in groups. (I will share my lessons and takeaways from this book after next Friday).

I think they are right. If you think about all the time spent in groups, in meetings, in conversations, and all the ways that progress is not made, and all the ways problems are not fixed… you might begin to think that we are doing the whole communicating with and working with one another tasks all wrong.

And, then, as you keep thinking, there are so many other things we seem to get equally wrong, like:

Speaking, presenting, writing… communicating
Strategic planning
Execution

The list goes on…

In other words, nearly all of the efforts in government, in corporations, in nonprofits, in education, are crippled by the wrong practices we continue to follow.

It reminds me of a so-very-true quote from Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto:

At least 30 percent of patients with stroke receive incomplete or inappropriate care from their doctors, as do 45 percent of the-checklist-manifesto1patients with asthma and 60 percent of patients with pneumonia. Getting the steps right is proving brutally hard, even if you know them. (emphasis added).

Here’s a simple question: why would we ever want to do anything else wrong? Wouldn’t we rather get things right?

And, so, here is our ongoing challenge:

Step #1 – Discover the right way to do things.
Step #2 – Do these things in that right way.

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