Updated: Jan 3
Written by: Megan McDowell
Psychological Safety and Cognitive Diversity
Harvard Business Review recently published an article entitled The Two Traits of the Best Problem-Solving Teams which looked at attributes of successful problem solving teams versus unsuccessful problem solving teams. A key factor for great problem solving groups is diverse cognitive thinking patterns. The second most important is psychological safety. The group that is not afraid to make mistakes and treat mistakes with curiosity rather than contempt or embarrassment were much more successful and saw all members contribute, resulting in quicker, more thorough solutions. Market research online communities provide both of these factors bringing together people of different cognitive thinking patterns, as well as creating a safe place to share opinions free from trolls.
What Management Often Overlooks
The authors of the HBR article, Alison Reynolds and David Lewis, give an example of 12 managers meeting and discussing how to solve a complex problem. A younger member in the group states that they think they have solved the problem and begin directing the group. The group acknowledges that this junior member has the answer but as she leads the group, the activity breaks down. The group expresses disappointment and she feels her confidence disappear. The problem is therefore not fully solved, and this junior member is less likely to share in the future. While the team was diverse cognitively, the authors write, “The groups that performed well treated mistakes with curiosity and shared responsibility for the outcomes. As a result, people could express themselves, their thoughts and ideas without fear of social retribution.” This security within the group made it easier for ideas to be shared and work through mistakes to find solutions.
The authors interviewed over 150 senior executives over a period of twelve months from different organizations looking at cognitive diversity, and psychological safety and how their organization was able to adapt and handle challenges. The authors write, “Not surprisingly, adaptability correlated very highly with high levels of both cognitive diversity and psychological safety. We called these organizations “generative,” and labelled the worse-performing organizations oppositional (high diversity, low safety), uniform (low diversity, high safety), and defensive (low in both).”
The Words your Company Needs to Define Itself
The executives interviewed by the authors were asked to choose five words from sixty that describe dominant behaviours and emotions within their organization. The list of words among the successful adaptive companies were as follows: curious, encouraging, experimental, forceful, inquiring, nurturing. While the low performing organizations chose these words to describe themselves: cautious, controlling, flexible, hierarchical, reasoned, resistant. These words describing emotions and behaviours clearly illustrate two diverse paths. One path leads to more constructive problem solving with emotionally secure members, the other leads to less constructive insecure members.
MROC’s Provide Psychological Safety and Cognitive Diversity
Market research online communities are great because they pool together cognitively diverse members to share ideas and work towards solutions that an organization is facing. It also creates a safe place to share ideas because community managers are able to oversee the comments being made and ensure that their is no bullying going on, as well other community members can report unconstructive comments as well. With MROC software members that fill in profile surveys and have to authenticate their accounts are more likely to be a part of the community for constructive purposes rather than to simply troll.
The other benefit online research communities have is that the members involved in the problem solving are more objective than those within the company. Sometimes organizational members can’t speak freely because they are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. By bringing together a random sample of customers and asking for their feedback, they can share in a psychologically safe environment, as well as give cognitively diverse opinions, and give these opinions from a customer centric viewpoint.
If you would like to find out more about how market research online communities can help you, please feel free to contact us.