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Eight Ways to Reduce Failures

Diverse and dissenting ideas are the nucleus of creativity and innovation. Group leaders can use these eight strategies to elicit these ideas:

1. Asking questions instead of suggesting outcomes. Leaders should focus less on sharing their own opinions and more on collecting information from others — particularly from those with less influence or who might be less comfortable sharing.

2. Encouraging critical thinking and differing viewpoints. If consensus is emphasized, people are less likely to reveal what they know. Group members who engage in critical thinking do not always get along.

3. Rewarding group success. If everyone in the group is rewarded once there is a successful outcome, members will be more likely to speak up. Cascades will be reduced, and all members will have a stake in reaching a correct group decision.

4. Identifying the unique expertise of each group member before deliberation begins. By ensuring that people have unique roles or tasks, each person’s contribution to the discussion is unique.

5. Changing perspective. Groups are more likely to follow a failing course of action than an individual would. Asking what a new leader would do can create a needed critical perspective.

6. Soliciting sincere differing viewpoints. Studies have found that token devil’s advocacy merely reinforces consensus. Only genuine dissension yields better decisions.

7. Experimenting with contrarian teams. A second team that takes an opposing position can uncover errors or vulnerabilities in a group’s proposal.

8. Collecting anonymous opinions. Group leaders should employ formal methods of obtaining individually held information, such as the Delphi method.

Perhaps the best strategy is to utilize data and analytics as much as possible. Sunstein and Hastie invoke the book Moneyball, by Michael Lewis, which contends that statistical analysis is more reliable than subjective analysis.

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