Sometimes you can find information for best practices for Boards and working groups in the most unusual of places.
A recent article in a scientific journal entitled “Why too much evidence can be a bad thing” talks about how sometimes too much evidence can be a bad thing. In fact, as the article states, in ancient Jewish law, if a person was found unanimously found guilty by all judges, then the suspect was acquitted. The reason being that the judges felt if no one saw a flaw in the case, it was unlikely to be true.
The article went on to talk about committees, stating:
“In many committee meetings, in today’s big organizations, there is a trend towards the idea that decisions must be unanimous. For example, a committee that ranks job applicants or evaluates key performance indicators (KPIs) often will argue until everyone in the room is in agreement. If one or two members are in disagreement, there is a tendency for the rest of the committee to win them over before moving on. A take-home message of our analysis is that the dissenting voice should be welcomed. A wise committee should accept that difference of opinion and simply record there was a disagreement. The recording of the disagreement is not a negative, but a positive that demonstrates that a systemic bias is less likely.”
Boy, this nails it. So often a “culture of unanimity” exists in a group—where there is a fear for making a decision by a contested vote. I’ve long worked with groups to recognize this and driven to remedy it, but who knew I had science on my side.
A worthy question for all committees and Boards is how they’re handling dissent. Is it being welcomed and encouraged, or is it being seen as a bump on the road to a unanimous decision? I’d be interested in hearing—drop me a comment or send me a tweet to @andy_freed.