May 23, 2011 at 7:28pm
In a world where employee engagement and autonomy are becoming increasingly necessary, are we inadvertently exposing ourselves to risk - the risk of making decisions that are distorted by emotional factors? This hack proposes some interesting strategies for ensuring that we continue to make beneficial decisions.
While employee engagement and passion are obviously healthy emotional factors, research and history clearly show that emotion can have an adverse effect on decision making. Is there some way that we can keep tabs on our decisions, especially among more passionate organisations?
In an environment where innovation, clarity and employee engagement are becoming increasingly important, we may need to change things in order to maintain that competitive advantage.
While this technique is primarily for making bigger decisions, the founding components can be transferred for smaller every-day decisions also. Examples of big decisions include; hiring a CEO, investing a substantial percentage of company capital in another venture, choosing a business to partner with etc.
- Select for the mission -
This is best for groups with 6 or more people, but really depends on the size of the organisation.
Randomly select the decision makers on the morning of the decision. More varying ages, nationalities, values and backgrounds, are better for decision making so it's important to make sure you have a team that captures the diversity of the members of the organisation and that covers every technical angle of the decision.
It is recommended that this exercise is executed on a Monday morning so that all group members will be in different moods having come from different weekend activities.
- Remove social constructs and prepare the group for their decision -
1. Take your group of decision makers away to somewhere quiet and neutral; for example into a forest overlooking the city or to the seaside. Removing ourselves from the social constructs of every day activities can help to provide perspective by making us realise that the world continues to spin when we are not in our offices. You may choose to have the decision makers wear more comfortable clothing for the exercise also.
2. Talk the group through the process and tell them that they will be assessing and discussing each others decisions, emotional states and reasoning at the end of the process and again at a later date.
3. Enable the decision makers to be aware of their mood by teaching them about the effects of emotional state on decisions. Explain mood-congruence, 'groupmood', group polarisation and the benefits and disadvantages of both positive and negative emotional states (Please see the attached report for more in-depth information about the effects of mood on decision making).
4. Discuss all of the possible outcomes from the decision/s at hand and clarify any issues.
5. Allow the group only a few minutes to discuss their emotional states including anything which could have a significant impact, before separating them from each other and issuing them with an unusual item on which to write their decisions, explanations and feelings. Some examples of unusual items are; an old shirt, a car door, and old news paper etc. The unusual item could help the individual to be more aware of their emotional state by inducing a new contributing emotion, or by encouraging them to think more objectively. This is also a good way of removing more of the social constructs associated with their working roles.
Note: It is important that the group is comfortable with sharing their feelings with each other so ice breaker activities may be appropriate depending on the groups current level of cohesion.
6. After an appropriate period of time, bring the group back together and have them re-asses their decision and the decisions of the others through discussions and normal meeting procedures.
7. Repeat the exercise several days or weeks later if necessary (depending on the nature of the decision at hand) to review the decisions in different emotional states.
- Underlying principles: -
• Both positive and negative mood can contribute to beneficial decision making, so a mixture of emotional states can actually be more helpful for the process.
• As we get older we experience fewer negative emotions and more positive emotion so a mixture of age can also be beneficial.
• Diversity in groups; race, values, religion, age etc. can help to make more beneficial decisions.
• Diverse groups can naturally work against 'groupthink'.
• Mood is effected by many factors including; the facial expressions of others, objects, images, sounds, exercise etc. so introducing a new mood by issuing unusual objects could induce a new emotion, encouraging the group member more aware of their emotional state.
• Including a dissident person in discussions (someone who is not afraid to voice disagreement) can contribute to much better decisions also.
• Because mood effects decision making, revisiting a decision in a different mood state can help to provide a more objective perspective on the matter.
1. Trial the process as an individual. Seek training in emotional awareness and see how it effects your decision making capabilities.
2. Adjust the system to fit your organisation. Try it in the boardroom first. Increase the size ot the group or decrease it. Choose the team members or randomly select them. Introduce more unusual thought-provoking objects, photos or even film and audio bites.
3. Trial the process in a setting which involves smaller decisions and fewer employees and listen to the feedback. Record the results of the exercise over time to see whether it has contributed to more beneficial decision making. Ask the decision makers if they felt that they had pulled anything valuable out of the process.