Contrarians Make Groups Better

I tend to be a fact-driven independent thinker. I enjoy hearing different perspectives, though, and I’m happy to be persuaded by sound logic. Today I had two great conversations about group decisions that got me thinking. How do you get the best decisions from a group?

Groups of credible people are powerful. They can make great decisions. Each person brings a perspective shaped by their unique experiences. When they share it, everyone else glimpses the world through their lens. Incorporating the views of disparate people produces a better, more comprehensive decision. Will it be a perfect decision? No. Will it be stronger and more cohesive? Absolutely!

I’ve often found that it’s difficult to get every member of a group to speak up. A confident, perhaps dominant, person who shares their opinion early on can sway others too easily and discourage them from sharing their thoughts. Groupthink is the result, and it’s not a good thing. If everyone rallies behind a single perspective instead of discussing different ways of looking at the problem, the result is a consensus decision that is weak.

I’ve read lots about this and I believe consensus decisions can be dangerous. One of the conversations I had today affirmed this. The lack of a contrarian perspective in a group is a warning sign. If everyone sees the issue the same way, the group may be overlooking something material. If they are, the decision they settle on will be flawed and probably wrong.

The next time you’re working in a group and you have a different opinion than others do, let it be heard (respectfully and collaboratively). Even if the group doesn’t agree with you, you’re adding value. You never know—your contrarian view could be the difference between a disastrous decision rooted in groupthink and an amazing one!