I’m in the middle of The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki, and I’m very intrigued by the point he makes about how decision-making groups in this country are so focused on a consensus instead of making the right decisions. From his book:
You do not need a consensus in order, for instance, to tap into the wisdom of a crowd, and the search for consensus encourages tepid, lowest-common denominator solutions which offend no one rather than exciting everyone. Instead of fostering the free exchange of conflicting views, consensus-driven groups – especially when the members are familiar with each other – tend to trade in the familiar and squelch provocative debate.
I can think of instances in my own life where this is true, so I can only imagine how many big decisions in government and corporate America have been made in this very same way. Everyone is afraid to speak up or go against the grain because they do not want any responsibility or they do not want to sound stupid, so the “easy” solution is chosen instead of trying to figure out the best solution. Something to keep in mind the next time you are in a meeting that seems to be going nowhere.