I’m guilty of it, too: focusing on tried-and-true productivity techniques that surprise no one and reflect a fair degree of common sense.
But in group settings – teams, partnerships, cooperative relationships, even temporary collaborations – there are some helpful productivity techniques that are a little less obvious.
Here are a few of them:
Raise “Special” Topics
One relatively scarce source of productivity is the willingness to talk about topics when others won’t. These “special” topics may include:
- Delicate issues that are difficult to discuss openly, such as unfairness affecting the workplace or group, or some specific “elephant in the room” that blocks or distorts the free flow of problem-solving ideas and actions.
- “News” items – such as plans, policies, personnel changes, or issues of internal politics – that are too often glossed over when they actually need to be laid out in detail for everyone involved to fully understand and appreciate.
- Controversial ideas, opinions, or feelings that people can handle better when openly expressed rather than covered only in code, or in private, or possibly even totally ignored.
The person who raises these and other special topics boosts a working group’s productivity by greasing the skids for frank and open discussion, as well as by eliminating the friction, errors, missed opportunities, and awkwardness that can result when coworkers do not operate in tight enough synch.
Break Up Unanimous Consent
It’s common when people work together for everyone to tend toward “getting along by going along.” But while conformity can lead to close coordination and cooperation, it can also lead to stagnated thinking or an agonizing failure to see and capitalize on latent possibilities.
Done in the right way and at the right time, dissenting from a pattern of excessive “groupthink” can lead to fruitful development of ideas, plans, and projects that may significantly boost productivity and success.
You don’t need to actually want the dissenting opinion to prevail. It’s enough simply to intend giving others a chance to examine the option(s) they favor, and explore the underlying reasons why.
The key here is to recognize the situation when the group is passing over potentially helpful possibilities, or heading down a road fraught with hidden landmines, and to purposely interrupt that process by offering suggestions intended to open other people’s hearts and minds to what might be helpful options.
Speak Truth to Power
Closely akin to the previous item, this group-oriented productivity-boosting suggestion involves telling people what they don’t want to hear, and that no one else (or relatively few others) will voice.
This kind of tactic is often fraught with emotional difficulty, threats to job security, or challenges to another person’s evaluation or judgment of a situation. Still, the notion of speaking an unpopular “truth” is well-recognized as a way to call attention to problems and trigger efforts to remedy them.
Although many people wielding power are OK living behind barriers to this kind of information, in the long run the person who speaks truth to power will often earn respect and appreciation, as well as a reputation for helping the group face facts that enable them to produce more favorable outcomes.
Many organizations give lip-service to honoring these techniques, but regularly slam on the brakes when someone actually tries to use one. Nevertheless, organizations, groups, and individuals who are receptive to these ideas tend to outperform those who are too hidebound, fearful, arrogant, or bureaucratically restrictive to let in a full measure of light.
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