Many managers seek consensus (aka
group thinking) without realizing it can shut down innovation and discourage creative problem solving. In team meetings, many participants are keen to not ruffle
feathers. This may rob the company of innovative ideas that could be the key to
improved profits next quarter. What if alternative points of view, diversity of thought,
different ideas, and speaking up were part of your company culture, and that
made a difference to your bottom line? Good meeting
facilitators encourage individuals to share diverse opinions, or even outright
dissent, rather than promoting groupthink. Facilitators who reward creative thinking and solutions
build a culture of creative problem solvers and innovators. As a team meeting
facilitator, how can you effectively gather and listen to these dissenting
Here are six questions to ask along with how they can boost your
culture and bottom line results:
Often budgets dictate the range of choices and the solutions we consider. Creativity suffers when we start with the presumption that there is not enough money. If we remove the bondage of budget, we can explore a full range of ideas. Brainstorming ideas without regard to cost can spur innovative ideas that may end up being financially feasible, leading to greater profits and even cost savings. So dream big first and then put a price tag on it.
Like the money question, this one also encourages people
to think bigger, without constraints. Yet it is a question facilitators may be
hesitant to ask, out of concern that people will focus on organizational
shortcoming in terms of talent, or for fear of appearing politically incorrect.
However, if we stay focused on each other’s humanity, and connect as humans
with empathy, this question can help us get a clear-eyed view of who as well as
what our organization needs to succeed.
Just as thinking about the finite nature of your own life can help you
focus on how you want to spend your time, asking this question can put
organizational priorities into perspective. It can help teams in all
departments prioritize their contributions to the company’s sustainability, and
renew a sense of purpose. To make sure this question does not devolve into a fear-based
conversation, present it as a chance to talk about the company’s legacy and
lasting contribution, or what the world would be like without that legacy, like
in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Approach it like a game versus something
too serious, and you will probably be surprised and inspired by some of the
answers you hear.
This question can be applied to
company-wide or team-specific decisions. Since our focus here is on team
meetings, consider the answers your team members give and how it relates to
their own unique Inner Genius. Each person fits one of 12 Inner Genius
archetypes, which can be ascertained by taking a brief online profile
will find, for instance, that some people are very detail-oriented while others
will tend to focus on the larger picture, and they give very different answers
based on their perspective. It’s the same with those who tend to speak up
versus those who tend to be quieter in meetings. All have valuable perspectives
to contribute that can help you avoid blind spots when making important
When we think of the word wild,
synonyms such as untamed, undomesticated, and uncultivated come to mind. So do
words like free, unruly, and diverse. Considering what might be the wildest
solution helps us step away from limitations, whether they are cultural,
budgetary, or personnel-related, and to think free from such constraints. This
is commonly called “out of the box” thinking, but wild is more active, daring
and fun - don’t you think? Who knows where the answers may lead?
Asking this question can help us
identify not only which roadblocks are “logical,” but also those that are based
on fear, inertia, and maintaining the status quo. As you listen to the answers
your team gives, consider how you can get them to rephrase their concerns or
complaints as commitments. For instance, someone may say they don’t like that
idea due to the perceived expense, time commitment, or lack of resources. As
facilitator, ask “How can you rephrase your answer as a commitment?” They might
respond that they are concerned about the team staying on budget, or not
extending itself beyond what it can fulfill. These kinds of conversations can
help you identify genuine concerns and transform your communications from
focusing on complaints to focusing on commitments.
Asking these questions can help
you as a facilitator disrupt group thinking and dig below the surface as you
encourage each team member to share their unique perspective. Remember to encourage
all players to answer, not just the dominant talkers. When considering big
changes or new initiatives as a group, you will probably want to schedule a
standalone meeting to discuss all six, or you could ask one or two questions to
shake up an existing agenda.
I hope these questions
inspire your team to new levels of innovation, problem solving and creativity.
Here’s to your team’s pursuit of genius!