No, this is not about the Kama Sutra – sorry! But before I tell you about The Birds and The Bees, let me ask you a serious question. If you were faced with a life and death situation, what percentage of the time do you think you would make the right decision? What if the decision criteria were fairly complex? Would your percentage drop? What if you had to get a few more people involved in making the decision? What if I said that your process MUST involve collective fact-finding, vigorous debate, and consensus building? Would your percentage drop even further? By the way, this represents the decision making situations in your work everyday -n’est ce pas? Let’s stretch this a little further – how about those few more people are actually 10,000 people? What would your percentage be now? I’m not done yet: what if you had to make that decision every year, year after year? What kind of success rate would you predict of making the right decision every time? Would you like to learn about a top secret methodology that will guarantee a success rate of close to 90% given ALL the criteria above? All you have to do is to forget whatever your parents taught you about birds and the bees and listen to what Professor Thomas Seeley from Cornell has to say about bees in a Harvard Business Review article. I’ll cover the birds some other time.
A beehive has to find a new place to call home every single year because of over population. And what I described above is the actual situation that they face, every single year, and Seeley’s research documents a success rate of 90% – year after year. They have very complex criteria that they have to meet because their survival depends on it, and they have developed a process which depends on experts to gather data, ways to consolidate the market research, validate the information, communicate to everyone and build consensus and then most importantly, make the decision and get it Adopted and Implemented. And then they live happily forever – till next year! 90% success rate!!!!! Seeley points to the fact that bees have figured out how to achieve a high collective IQ and that organizations would be well served to emulate bees. I could not agree more, and we at TMG have been preaching similarly. Here are his 5 keys:
- Remind the group’s members of their shared interests and foster mutual respect, so they work together productively.
- Explore diverse solutions to the problem, to maximize the group’s likelihood of uncovering an excellent option.
- Aggregate the group’s knowledge through a frank debate.
- Minimize the leader’s influence on the group’s thinking.
- Balance interdependence (information sharing) and independence (absence of peer pressure) among the group’s members.
Raising the collective IQ, High Performance Work Teams, Change Management, etc. are clearly critical competencies in organizations. In addition, decision making is the most overlooked competency in organizations today. People are promoted based on an assumption that they are better decision makers than others. Group decision making is probably the single biggest bottle neck in corporation today. Yet, there is very little attention paid to this issue-both at an individual level and at a group level. If you do find competencies related to Seeley’s list above, my guess is that it will be in the dreaded soft skills category and we all know how those are treated most of the time.
You first must fundamentally believe that those Strategic Competencies (soft skills) are the key to your organization’s success. Defining the right competencies, developing those organizational competencies (CBTM) and then adopting and implementing (AEIOU) can get you a 90% success rate. With 10,000 stakeholders to boot.
And again, my apologies to those who were expecting something from the Kama Sutra!