Tag Archive: trust

Beyond Groupthink


The pursuit of innovation and deeper answers requires a mix of approaches that allows groups to access new ways of thinking. I’ve shared information in the past from Tim Hurson about brainstorming in groups, a process he says is usually “brain drizzle.” His approach to deeper thinking was shared in a previous blog entitled, A Penny for Your Thoughts. I encourage you to read that blog again or for the first time if you are new to our community within the past two years.

Our most creative and transformative answers in groups, from Tim Hurson’s perspective, come when we exhaust initial ideas and are encouraged to go deeper in our thinking. This avoids acceptance of an early idea that groupthink may be quick to accept; the innovative answer is deeper and takes more effort, especially when there may be a few people in the room who are not comfortable speaking.

Susan Cain addressed getting to new ways of thinking in her book, Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. She said, “introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation.” She shared examples where group process was undeniably powerful in the creative process, but there was emphasis on individual process too. One example she gave was how the computer operating system Linux was developed. This was an open-source process where many individuals contributed to its development from the quiet of their homes. She hypothesized that the operating system would not be as complex and innovative had all of the individuals been brought together in one place with a goal of developing the system. I suspect Tim Hurson’s approach to thinking deeper within groups gets to some of the individual, more solitary process because it moves beyond the typical cognitive gyrations of groupthink and into the deeper recesses of individuals’ minds. How can we best honor group and individual processes to discover innovative approaches and answers? There is a flexibility of patience that is needed to allow this to happen.

Discovering innovative answers happens best when there is trust and a willingness to be vulnerable in a group.  What can each of us do to deepen trust?   This necessary ingredient to healthy growth provides a basis to maneuver various levels of conflict.  Patrick Lencioni’s addressed this in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. In a speech about this book, he emphasized the importance of vulnerability-based trust within groups. He said, “Without vulnerability-based trust, conflict becomes politics. With [vulnerability-based] trust, conflict is nothing but the pursuit of truth or the best possible answer.” A trusting environment that allows for healthy conflict around issues is essential for doing the work that leads to finding better answers.

I am excited about the evolution of our collective efforts and our ability to come together in trusting environments, where all voices are valued, to find the best possible way to serve our students, our EHHS community, and the college.

Bonus: “The hard truth is, bad meetings almost always lead to bad decisions, which is the best recipe for mediocrity.” Patrick Lencioni

Cain, S. (2012). Quiet: The power of introverts in a would that can’t stop talking. New York: Crown Publishers.

Hurson, T. (2007). Think Better: An innovator’s guide to productive thinking. New York: McGraw Hill.

Lencioni, P. (2002). The five dysfunctions of a team: A leadership fable. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Image (February 2, 2015). Retrieved January 26, 2017 from: http://www.corpgov.net/2015/02/groupthink-boardroom-context/

Continuous Improvement in Academia


There are many times each year when Giltz Auditorium is full of prospective students and their families with hopes and dreams for the future.  The prospective students are preparing to enter an environment of accelerated growth where personal comfort zones will be pushed and expanded to create a new self with additional knowledge, skills, and possibilities.  Our responsibility for creating the environment that makes this possible at the college requires daily mindfulness and a commitment to continuous improvement.  We must never lose sight of the moral and ethical responsibilities with which we are entrusted when families send their children to us.

In the business world, models of continuous improvement often include words like assessment, planning, implementation, budget management, etc.  These words are important to our thinking about continuous improvement for the college; however, there is a wider focus in the academic environment that takes a more holistic view of students and our learning community.  This wider focus is grounded in our shared values.  For example, continuous improvement in the areas of respect and empathy, while not easily measured, are seen and felt in daily actions of faculty and staff between each other and with students.  Our interactions and modeling provide an atmosphere of expectations and nurturing for achieving higher levels of these and other shared values.

Here are a few thoughts incorporating our shared values  and strategic priorities from our Campus Plan in a wider-focused view of continuous improvement:

  • Trust increases with open communication and an appreciation for others’ perspectives.  This works best by understanding that all voices will be heard, but no single voice will carry the day.  This also speaks to our shared value articulation that says we are committed to understanding before being understood.  The opposite of this can lead to fractured communication.  In our non-professional lives, we can chose to allow fractured communication to remain, but we cannot afford this in a professional community.  Healing and moving forward comes, in part, from focusing on issues and not personalities while seeking deeper understanding.
  • It is important to establish clear expectations with support for achieving individual and community goals.  Our professionalism, how we interact with each other to realize our goals, is just as important as achieving programmatic/divisional goals – one does not occur optimally without the other.  We value collaboration.
  • It is important to establish an atmosphere where risks are allowed, often involving belief systems in academia, and if failure occurs, judgment and blame should not the first reactions.  When something does not work as well as planned, we must be compassionate with ourselves and others.  Learning from mistakes is crucial in a model of continuous improvement and requires the ability to build wisdom through embracing lessons that may be challenging.  It is important to have an appreciation for the process of improvement rather than jumping to conclusions and retreating to what was comfortable.  We must always envision what is best for students and find a way to get there together, even if it gets uncomfortable.
  • Related to the previous point, continuous improvement does not always mean striving harder within current paradigms.  Ashkenas (2012) said, “Too many continuous improvement projects focus so much on gaining efficiencies that they don’t challenge the basic assumptions of what’s being done.”  Sometimes disruption of a current paradigm is needed to create opportunities for maximal student success.
  • Provost Liszka spoke at the Celebration of Scholarship last Friday and discussed the bidirectional relationship of teaching and scholarship.  Continuous improvement to achieve consistent teaching excellence, along with other activities that support this, is central to the College’s goal of student success.
  • Being disciplined and mindful about our own growth is imperative; we value life-long learning.  For example, it is important to expand comfort zones to meet current and future needs of our students.  This may be done by learning new technology that will benefit students’ learning or will improve communication with others in the community.  It may be work that is needed to improve inclusiveness through multicultural competencies.  Imaging the best self possible for students and the community and developing personal plans for achieving this is not easy work.  It is this moral and ethical journey that calls us to become our best selves.  Parents who entrust their children to us and the young adults who entrust themselves to us deserve no less.

There is a beautiful line in a book by Christina Feldman (2005) that says, “Wisdom and compassion are like the two wings of a bird: Both are necessary for the bird to soar, both are necessary for our hearts to open and heal.”

I wish you well on your journey of continuous improvement and look forward to the times we do this work together.

Image (2013). Retrieved November 16, 2013 from:


Ashkenas, R. (2012).  It’s Time to Rethink Continuous Improvement. Retrieved November 16, 2013, from http://blogs.hbr.org/2012/05/its-time-to-rethink-continuous/

Feldman, C. (2005). Compassion: Listening to the cries of the world. Berkeley, CA: Rodmell Press.

%d bloggers like this: