You may want to read part one and two of this series before reading this post.
To become a change agent in a culture prone to group-think is difficult, to say the least. But, have hope, there are ways of being and actions that can bring a healthy pressure to the group. Here are a few thoughts:
1) Become a learner who shares what you’ve learned
When you come across an insight that you feel could gently challenge the current culture, share it. BUT, and this is HUGE. Do NOT share it to change the culture. If you share it for the expressed purpose of revealing the group-think for what it is, you will lose your voice. When any of us are resistant to change, we loathe a person trying to drop subtle or not so subtle hints that change is needed. It’s like a husband or a wife leaving a book around on relationships and "hoping" it sinks in. Bad idea.
Share your learnings as naturally as you can and make sure you share them as objective ideas that you found interesting. But, share them nonetheless. Let the people trapped in group think consider your words in their own time and at their own pace–at least at first. Don’t push your ideas, share them as interesting and informative to you. If you are dealing with a severe case of group think, you might even have to initially down play the ideas.
2) Ask questions
Questions can penetrate a group, at times, far better than statements–particularly if the statement is too threatening. Questions assume that the group has the "right" to consider the topic and even disagree with it. For instance, let’s say you are trying to soften a culture that struggles with work-aholism. To make matters worse, the culture has a severe case of group think over the value of killing yourself at work at any cost. A question like:
Did you all read the article in the most recent Forbes Magazine about Google’s culture of play? It was really interesting. Google does all sorts of things to increase the well being of their employees and man has their productivity shot through the roof. What do you all make of that?
The question is actually a combination of both pieces of advice (share your learnings and ask questions).
3) Be humble
One of the things you must realize about your desire to help change a culture trapped in group-think is that you can play a role, but you can’t do the whole thing yourself. Life and situations that come up will have a profound affect on the ability of the group to change. There’s nothing like a good ole crisis to loosen up my beliefs or assumptions. Sometimes a group has to hit hard times before they are willing to consider something new. Play your part, but trust a process that is bigger than you.
By the way, sometimes it’s not your role or my role to be the change agent. Sometimes it’s simply time to move on. But, if you are convinced you are to be a part of the culture–struggling with group-think–than hopefully, over time, you can make a difference that changes the texture of the group and the organization.
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