As a trainer, a teacher or a manager, when we are moderating a group in class or in a meeting, we often want to know the point of view of our participants.
Sometimes we launch an open-ended question to everyone and wait for someone to commit and try to answer. Usually, someone starts quite quickly and the others listen to his proposal. The following comments are naturally built around this first answer: either they support it, improve it or oppose it…
All ideas are then often aligned according to the first opinion expressed.
The reason for this phenomenon can be explained in large part by the way our brains work and by our education.
Indeed, contrary to what we believe, our brain cannot do two mental tasks at once. In group work, when the members listen to the person who is speaking, they cannot simultaneously think about a solution. Since there is often no dead time in the discussion between two comments, the actual time for reflection is limited. Source : You think you’re multitasking ? Think Again
Thus, a participant who would like to develop a completely new answer would have to stop listening to the group in order to think; which is very difficult sometimes and against nature, due in particular to our school training to listen to the person who is speaking.
As a result, some members of the group remain on the sidelines, without having thought about the issue for themselves before forming their opinion.
From a low level perspective, we can say to ourselves that we are effective because we reached an agreement quickly.
From a high level perspective, this is a loss as not all possibilities have probably been analysed. We then deprive ourselves of the richness of the ideas and knowledge of all the participants.
A simple trick to benefit from everyone’s input is to allow a moment of individual thinking before starting the discussion. Indeed, immediately after asking the question, inviting each participant to take a few minutes to note their ideas on this topic gives them the time they need to give their own answer.
Destabilizing at first, this simple practice positively modifies group dynamics and gives everyone the opportunity to really contribute to the group. Not only does each member feel more respected in the discussion, but we also succeed in deepening the reflection and collectively generating the best solutions.