Watching an interview with Subir Chowdhury, author of 15 landmark books on innovation, I was struck by one comment.

That he always wanted to be the dumbest person in the room.

Why?  Because he could ask supposedly dumb questions and question the status quo.

Why were certain things happening that way?  Because they always had.  But why?  What was the original reason and was it still valid?

Every organisation is prone to the dangers of group think.

An idea takes root and becomes just the way we do things around here.  Unconscious bias sets in.  Often it’s a case of junior team members not being secure enough to challenge opinions from senior players.

At its worst, group think stifles innovation.

Case in point…

Kodak believing film would always be around is a prime example of an organisation so mired in group think that they failed to see the inherent disruption digital cameras would bring – even though they were digital pioneers!

Armies around the world have also realised the dangers of group think and not getting outsiders to ask probing questions.

A concept called Red Teaming was first coined by the Israeli army after the Yum Kippur 1967 war.  Group think had them believe the Arab states would never attack.  Even when the King of Jordan personally flew in his helicopter to warn the Israeli PM, they didn’t take notice.

Suffice to say they nearly lost that war and learnt their lessons.  Both armies and corporations worldwide now incorporate red teams to ask difficult questions and challenge assumptions that could be deadly.

I should point out that group think isn’t confined to groups.  It can easily happen with us as individuals.  We’ve learnt to do something – and will always do it this way in spite of evidence to the contrary.  We’re often blind to our own faults.

Which is why it’s essential to regularly get outside input.  And importantly, from someone outside your own industry or you’ll get a similarly biased opinion.

Someone who asks, “Why?”  Why you’re doing something.  Someone who can bring fresh perspectives to your operation, be you one person or an organisation.

When working with our own clients we make a point of challenging the status quo.

Couple of examples come to mind.

One was a professional photographic lab we convinced to give a 110% money back guarantee if their clients weren’t happy with print results.  They fought us on it, but to their credit implemented the idea.  Clients loved it, they became one of Australia’s leading suppliers and have in 15 years never been called on the guarantee.

Completely against industry norms, a finance client now rigorously screens potential clients and charges for initial appointments.  Taking a stand positions them as market leaders and they get to choose who they want to work with.

Having worked with hundreds of business owners in over 45 industries, we bring clarity and new ways of thinking into your organisation. 

We ask probing questions.  And equally importantly, take what we’ve learned from other fields and apply it to your circumstances.  Remember, most innovation comes from outside your own field.

As a client recently put it, we know what works, are pragmatic, provide clarity to improve his business.

We’d love the opportunity to work with you to do the same.

Give Rashid a call on +61 414 913 334 and we’ll determine if we can add value to your business.

Rashid & Barbara.

P.S.  You can watch the interview with Subir Chowdhury here.  It’s well worth it.

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