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When organisations need to solve a problem, they may create a task force or advisory committee to develop a consensus around new ideas, such as procedures, policies, products or services.
However, research shows that consensus-based problem-solving groups often kill innovative ideas. These groups are prone to groupthink - quick agreement around status quo solutions with little deliberation.
Yet, there are exceptions. Not all consensus-based problem-solving groups engage in groupthink.
People tend to think that current solutions must be good. As a result, groups tend to move towards the status quo because they are less likely to fail. "It worked before."
Groups can overcome groupthink by one member expressing dissatisfaction with the status quo. The words that describe dissatisfaction are called triggers because they can kick start the group embracing new and different approaches. Triggers give members the opportunity to reveal how each member view to problem.
Groupthink can be avoided when one member reacts to the trigger by proposing a placeholder solution. It may not be the final solution but functions as a transitional placeholder that allows the group to think concretely and abstractly.
The placeholder solution allows members a transitional space where play and experimentation are encouraged.
Groups tasked with coming to a consensus can interpret delayed agreement as a lack of progress or failure.
Teams that adopt a placeholder solution can agree on the "why " of an idea, even if they have different views about how to execute it. They can frame the lack of final agreement as progress and maintain morale and momentum.
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