It’s been said that groupthink is bad, that the group influences individual opinions and leads to conformity and discourages the free flow of good ideas. I was recently involved in two group meetings dealing with sticky issues, one last Monday and one tonight. Group one included eight people trying to put together a schedule and arrange logistics for an important meeting. Group two included three people tackling several critical issues. The first group spent about five hours locked in a room, trying to build concensus from a spectrum of opinions. I left, somewhat disillusioned, long before it ended. The second group spent 50 minutes tackling equally weighty issues, and with razor-like precision, the three of us resolved all outstanding issues–and more.
There’s a lot to be said about small groups working through tough issues. Having large groups with many stakeholders who need to have their say and forging concensus is a bit overrated.