Why random brainstorms are a waste of time

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Why random brainstorms are a waste of time

  • New book gives robust framework for breakthrough business solutions
  • Smarter decision-making can lift performance by up to 20%

3 March 2016: The group random brainstorming prevalent at many corporate organisations – in Australia and worldwide – fails to create breakthrough insights or spot risks, according to a thought-provoking new book by Deloitte Consulting partner Juliet Bourke.

Juliet, who is the leader of the professional services firm’s Australian Diversity, Inclusion and Leadership practice, wrote the book to help company directors and executive leaders create genuinely diverse-thinking groups and to reap the benefits of breakthrough ideas and wise judgements.

Which Two Heads Are Better Than One? How diverse teams create breakthrough ideas and make smarter decisions is being released by publisher the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD).

“Our view is that generating diversity of thinking requires more diligence than simply assembling a disparate group of people, encouraging random brainstorming and crossing one’s fingers,” Juliet explained.

She said while many might agree at an intellectual level that diversity of thinking enhances group performance, very few can put their finger on why it works or how to achieve it. “Few can even agree on what creates diversity of thinking – is it a maverick in a group? Is it people from minorities?” Juliet said.

The question: Which Two Heads Are Better Than One? points to the need for businesses to avoid relying on people who are too culturally similar to come up with the best solutions.

“If the aim of the game is breakthrough ideas and smart decisions, then those two heads need to reflect diverse perspectives and problem-solving approaches, and work together collaboratively. When they do, our research shows that alchemy occurs: a group becomes greater than the sum of its parts and organisations get the diversity of thinking that drives competitive advantage,” Juliet said.

The book outlines five factors that can make a tangible difference to a group’s ability to make smarter decisions, and lift performance by as much as 20%:

  • People – group composition
  • Process – a more disciplined thinking process and multiple approaches to problems
  • Biases – actively mitigating biases
  • Context – strategies to avoid cognitive depletion
  • Leadership – an inclusive leader who thinks about composition, discussion processes, biases and cognitive depletion

Deloitte’s Diversity and Inclusion lead and senior partner, Assurance & Advisory, Margaret Dreyer commented: “We are very much embracing Juliet’s thinking and ideas into our own leadership practices as well as the services and advice we provide our clients. Her thinking builds on our existing approach to diversity, with diversity of thought increasingly matched with diversity of approach. We also have a strongly supportive and inclusive leadership group, which is the foundation on which diversity of thinking is built.”

Praised by other organisational leaders within Australia and internationally, the book is based on rigorous academic and applied research. Which Two Heads Are Better Than One? brings science to the question and provides a compelling framework to ensure teams see scenarios broadly, discuss options thoroughly and mitigate social, informational and attentional biases effectively.

The Chair of the Diversity Council of Australia and former Australian Chief of Army David Morrison said changing culture to build more inclusive workplaces was both essential and difficult. “Until now there have been no practical guides for leaders wanting to make a difference. This book changes that paradigm. Read it and prosper.”

The University of Michigan’s Professor Scott E Page said: “The book is truly exceptional. Juliet manages to maintain an optimistic tone, emphasising opportunity and also being serious about this - none of this comes easy.”

The chairman of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Elizabeth Proust, AO said: “I commend this book to all boards and executive teams. It will confront how you think about all aspects of the way we work, and that is both a challenge and an opportunity.”

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Simon Rushton

Corporate Affairs & Communications
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