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Does the solution always lie in the room?

March 6, 2023

Strategic direction and change come from the top.

The success of that direction or change, however, comes down to the rest of the business getting behind it. You should, then, involve them in the design and decision making. Strategy is set at the top but it’s dependent on the rest of the organisation. And if no-one understands it, and it doesn’t work, success will remain out of reach.

So is it simply a case of getting everyone involved?

After all, employees hold huge amounts of information and experience in the day-to-day running and success of the business. They crucially also have insights into the organisation’s failures. That knowledge can be harnessed to shape the business, focus efforts and turn ambition into tangible success.

Yet, as firms grow in size and in profit, they tend to be more comfortable protecting what they know rather than exposing themselves to what they don’t know. Sociologist Linsey McGoey, of the University of Essex, calls this ‘strategic ignorance’, which she defines as ‘the circumstances in which cultivating ignorance becomes more advantageous than cultivating knowledge.’

You want to make sure, then, that you have employee input. To make more informed decisions. Identify strengths and weaknesses with product, services and client relations. Be able to react quickly to market shifts. And strengthen employee working relationships.

But beware ‘groupthink’ when you get everyone in the same room.

They believe their input alone can solve the problem. Their insight, they believe, is strong enough to provide sufficient context to solve the problem, and their combined knowledge, wisdom and experience is deep enough to attend to any challenges arising. But this approach can lead to unchallenged teams who have convinced themselves they know the right answer.

McKinsey recently surveyed over 1,200 managers in global companies across multiple sectors on decision making. While the biggest challenge was the frustration at broken decision-making processes, with slow and inconsistent quality of decision-making, senior execs said that this dissatisfaction was driven in part by ‘lack of real debate, convoluted processes, and an over-reliance on consensus and death by committee.’

The opportunity cost is devastating: over 500,000 days of managers’ time are potentially wasted every year in a typical Fortune 500 company. Speed of decision-making, then, is crucial. But getting the right mix of people is the key for the right outcome. It is about ensuring those people who work in the business on a daily basis are challenged by outside perspectives and fresh ideas from those who have experience, knowledge, wisdom and valuable insight.

At Hatch, once the goal or problem statement is understood and agreed, we push to involve people from outside your organisation: experts, industry analysts and advisors, partners and customers, to help you uncover blind spots and guide you towards the best way to tackle them. In our facilitated client design events, preparation is all, and we believe in investing a significant proportion of the engagement in getting the right people in the room at the outset. Inclusive business design is exactly about that.

Inclusivity must not be exclusive to only those in the company for truly fresh ideas to flow. We need to include viewpoints that stretch people, make them work smarter and push them to better outcomes. It’s all about getting the right perspectives and inputs at the outset. If we don't do this, the result is too likely to be the same beige, undifferentiated, unchallenged teams who continue to work in the same way. Our duty is to ensure teams stop working the way they always have and find better ways to collaborate.

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