Effective group dynamics is essential to solving problems, to designing innovative solutions. Unfortunately, it’s a curious phenomenon that individuals in a group setting have a tendency to not share information known only to themselves. In other words, people have a tendency to only share information that is already known to everyone in the group. Even doctors, people who naturally pool information in order to come up with decisions, when working with other doctors, fail to share vital information that could lead to a proper diagnosis.
How do you get people to share what they don’t know? Next time you’re in a meeting, here are a few things you should do to make sure info is shared:
- Do the Know/Don’t Know exercise. Ask the group the following questions: What do we know that we know? What do we know that we don’t know? What don’t we know that we know? (Think in terms of unused resources or skills), What don’t we know that we don’t know? This last question will lead to speculation and that’s good. All these questions help flesh out the knowledge landscape. Try this exercise using Post-It notes and have people post their thoughts as you progress through each set of questions. Doing it this way helps people objectively contribute – especially those who are more shy or insecure.
- Have people draw the situation as they see it. Then have them explain what their drawings represent. Open up the discussion and let people ask questions about the pictures. Often more can be learned from the questions than from the preliminary explanation.
- Before the meeting, have people on the team put together a list of things they believe will contribute to helping the situation. At the meeting these lists are shared in their entirety.
- No information should be considered trivial. Encourage people to share what they believe to be the most trivial bits of information they are in possession of. People have different reasons behind this, but sometimes people don’t share what they consider trivial information because they consider themselves trivial. Make sure your culture doesn’t belittle and instead elevates team members to feel and act as essential to the team.
- Involve people who aren’t partaking in the discussion. See above.
- Ask Who, What, Where, When, Why and How? Keep the conversation dominated by questions as opposed to answers.
- Knock the spinning top. Change the equilibrium of the situation/meeting. Introduce some hypotheticals into the discussion in an effort to draw out unknown information. This can also be done as part of the Know/Don’t Know exercise.
- Shift domains into the other senses. Have people describe the situation using a different sense than the info was originally obtained in. Ask people what a situation smells, tastes or feels like. Then have them describe why.
What ways do you get people to share information in group settings?