The Best Ideas Should Win, Not Just the Loudest

Hearing Every Voice in the Room

In our last post, we talked about how solving the world’s biggest problems take ensembles, not soloists.

That’s true because we almost always are working on a team, where no one person gets to be the final “decider.” You can argue that this situation is bad, and that we should vote you dictator (at least for a day), but that rarely solves the real problem. In meetings, in groups, all the voices in the room have to be heard and real consensus matters.

Tweet: “When we listen to all the voices in the room, the best ideas win, not just the loudest”

How to Beat Groupthink

“But a camel is just a horse designed by committee!” We hear you grumble. You don’t want that! (unless you’re crossing the desert, but that’s another story).

Solomon Asch did an experiment in the 1950s that showed you could use conformity and groupthink to make people go from 97% accurate when working independently to 25% accurate when manipulated by their group. That’s a pretty powerful effect. How do we avoid groupthink making us all dumb?

1. Writing before talking

We teach at The Design Gym that if you don’t write it down, it didn’t happen. This is important because it keeps ideas visual. It allows us to move ideas like objects and create new information from that process.

Kick off meetings with everyone writing down their ideas before the group shares out. Share the challenge, the purpose of the meeting and allow everyone to capture 3-10 post-its with their own views on the real problem statement and their own views on potential solutions. Share those out and work from them.

2. What does good look like?

We’ve heard teams judge ideas against simplicity, cost, ease for the company, ease for the user…and so many more…without talking about why first. We all have our own model of what good looks like. We often ask groups to sort ideas against impact and enthusiasm because we believe the best ideas should be great for the company and their customers and energizing for the company’s staff. Your team has to align on why an idea is good. Separate that from the ideas themselves and you’ll find that alignment can be much easier. Idea generation can be easier that way too.

3. Appoint a Facilitator

It’s easy to forget this one. A facilitator isn’t a decider or a dictator. They help keep a team honest on time, goals and process.

You can take a class on facilitation with us or just start trying to use these best practices one at a time. Take turns being facilitators—you’ll each learn from one another’s strengths and challenges.

Even more important, it’s essential to realize that the best ideas are the ones that work. And “work” means works for the company, for the team and your customers. Fighting for an idealized “best” idea at the cost of your team’s peace of mind just isn’t worth it. When we listen to all the voices in the room, the best ideas win, not just the loudest.


Tweet: “When we listen to all the voices in the room, the best ideas win, not just the loudest”

The Design Gym
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