David Raab posted an article on what current brain research says about decision-making and software selection (his specialty).
It made me think about some of the additional pitfalls that B2B marketers face in group decision-making.
I don’t mean the daily decisions that individual marketers make in a data-driven organization. These decisions are usually straightforward. They are informed by quantitative measurement, testing, and experience.
No, I mean the bigger decisions that a marketing group might have to make — for example, evaluating a significant partnership or technology investment.
Groups in this situation are vulnerable to one person’s objections or to group-think that ignores important information. Here are some ideas to avoid falling prey to these dangers in group decision-making.
Consensus-building gives power to the outlier
If a group is making an important decision, then reaching consensus may appear to be the way to express the will of the group (for example by using the six levels of consensus exercise). Reaching a consensus means everyone agrees with the decision. However, consensus-building empowers an outlier to disagree with the rest of the group and prevent it from reaching a consensus.
The outlier may have a valid concern. Give this person a voice so that everyone is heard. But you don’t necessarily have to appease the concern.
To avoid this obstacle to your group decision-making, establish the decision rules in advance. Have everyone write down their recommendation in advance and why they support it. Or, if they are blocking the recommendation, why they are blocking it and what it would take to move this person to support the recommendation.
Group think can allow a group to ignore important information
We want to believe something is true and may ignore key information if it conflicts with our vision. The members of a group can get attached to an option that will turn out not to be viable.
Before coming to a decision, make sure you have tested your preferred option with people who have a variety of views and experiences.
Too many options can derail your decision
Be careful not to entertain too many options in group decision-making. Yes, you may have looked at many options during the brainstorming or evaluation phase of your project.
But when it comes time to make a decision, don’t present options. Instead, make a recommendation with your rationale. List the principal objections that might arise and the rebuttals. Also present one or two of the options that you dismissed and your rationale.
Group decision-making needs to reflect the will of the group without necessarily coming to complete consensus. It needs to consider all important information. And it needs to respond to valid objections.
Groups that avoid these pitfalls are more likely to make a decision that will survive political resistance and implementation challenges.