Expertise in a particular function, a whole host of college degrees, years of experience, strategic thinking capability, and a pristine reputation for professionalism all point to a recipe for success in the corporate world. If an individual has these building blocks then he or she is almost destined to make in big.
There are great thinkers and strategists in most successful companies and these thinkers are doing their bit in propelling the business forward with the sheer force of their intellectual capability. However, the question that eventually comes up is their ability to work well with others, and for the whole brainstorming team to get along. The combined power of the individual team members and their collective expertise is, after all, meant to deliver solutions that will be far superior to what each individual could have accomplished individually.
Organisations hope to make policy decisions that impact the organisation’s future based on the recommendations of their think tank team. The idea is to get experts to review various economic, political, social and organisational issues that impact the business and come up with proposals that can have a significant positive effect. Individual agendas are often blamed for team problems in these groups. ‘Individual agendas’ implies a certain amount of ulterior motives. However, assuming that the high profile think-tank that a company constitutes is not prey to individual agendas, that they are all sufficiently senior, well established and secure in their individual roles in the companies. Let’s explore what else can potentially go wrong within the team:
No Consensus Because of Varying Perspectives
Individual perspectives on certain topics could be so far apart that a consensus becomes illusive. Multiple solutions and options are suggested but the group is unable to come up with a definite recommendation. They are all experts in their own right and may have set views that cannot be easily changed, each individual is likely to believe that his or her viewpoint is the ‘right’ one.
Two cousins control a large corporation in the real estate sector. They are both managing directors of the company and handle separate business divisions in the company. But the buzz in corporate circles is that the business is slated to be split because the two key people at the helm “tend to hold sharply divergent views on key business issues”.
This clash of perspectives can easily happen in an expert team as well, especially when you have more than two people involved.
Inability To Convey Their Analysis in a Clear Manner
If the members are unable to put across their ideas clearly there could be implementation problems with the rest of the organisation not fully understanding the complex recommendations.
Too Much Time Spent in Deliberations
If the think tank meets over an extended period of time and takes months to deliver a proposal, the organisation may lose out on opportunities in the interim.
Given the likelihood of problems such as the above cropping up with the members of the team, the organisations has the task of ‘facilitating’ the proceedings of the think tank in such a manner that it’s enormous knowledge can be tapped to throw up productive results. However this needs to be balanced in such a way so as not to intervene or intrude on the proceedings, but facilitating and assisting in the team process.
So how does one facilitate a good output from the think tank without becoming intrusive? The answer lies in anticipating the likely problems that may occur in the proceedings and find solutions in advance. It is a good idea to ask questions like the following:
- What can they do when there is lack of consensus; should they be asked to take a vote?
- What should they do when they clash on issues; should the issue be referred to an outside consultant and the think tank asked to proceed on to other issues?
- What can they do to translate their analysis to lay man’s language; should a group of observers/assistants be a part of the proceedings to assist in the documentation of the recommendations?
- What kind of time frame can be indicated to the group and what is the grace period if they need more time?
It’s a good idea to get the CEO or Managing Director who set up the think tank to provide certain parameters for the proceedings and process. He can find ways to smooth the progress of the think tank and clearly define the goals and the nature of the output expected. When you want to tap creativity and ideas, a little bit of effort to facilitate the process can go a long way in getting the right proposals for your business.