Most businesses are becoming increasingly focused on collaborative problem solving. They often group employees together into project teams to tackle the mounting challenges they face. These new models can often be overwhelming for introverts. However, introverts can play a very important role in the problem solving process: they can help break the groupthink model.
What is Groupthink?
The goal of collaborative problem solving is to encourage team members to share their own perspectives and help formulate solutions that other individuals wouldn’t be able to come up with on their own. Experts believe that “the sum of the parts is greater than the whole” when individuals combine their faculties to work together on a project.
There are a lot of benefits to working in teams. However, there are a couple of limiting factors as well. One of the problems with collaborative problem solving is that team members often end up conforming to the ideas of the other group members. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as groupthink.
A considerable amount of research has shown that groupthink can be a seriously delimiting factor to the problem solving process. Many people are uncomfortable sharing potential solutions to complex problems. They sit in silence while an inferior idea is proposed.
Is Collaboration Always More Effective?
Recent studies also indicate that people tend to be much more creative and effective problem solvers when they work in solitude. This may not always be the case, but seems to be true a considerable amount of the time.
Groupthink may not be as much of an issue when group members are assertive enough to challenge the ideas of the group. However, such a situation tends to be the exception rather than the rule. Group leaders almost always emerge in any situation, whether they are formally appointed or simply take the initiative of appointing themselves.
The group leader is never omniscient. The informal group leader usually derives their power from their assertiveness rather than their expertise. However, the other group members often defer to the leader and refrain from challenging their ideas. This situation tends to create issues for the team as it struggles to come up with a solution to a complex organizational problem.
Where do Introverts Fit into the Model?
Award winning author Susan Cain recently wrote on the value introverts play in the workforce in some of her books, including Quiet: The Power of Introverts. Introverts are often the most creative problem solvers in the organization. Other experts are beginning to see this value as well.
Introverts may give into groupthink as well, but they tend to do so more reluctantly. There are a number of theories as to why this is the case. I personally believe that introverts are often less concerned with fitting in with the rest of their employees.
They don’t encourage businesses to completely refrain from using group problem solving models. However, they believe that they should try to recognize the value of solitude and encourage employees to spend some time dealing with these issues alone.
As an ENTP, I certainly agree with this approach. ENTPs share the introvert’s appreciation for solitude. A hybrid problem solving model that gives employees more time to reflect on their own ideas could make it easier for them to challenge the ideas proposed by their coworkers.
About the Author: Kalen Smith writes about business and leadership topics such as i o psychology graduate programs.
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