Posts Tagged ‘Yahoo!’

Metrics instead of content have become the thingThere was a time Рa long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away it seems Рwhen the quality and expertise of information mattered. Even on the internet. 

In its early days when it became more widely available to the public (mid-to-late 1990’s), the internet was about research, facts, discussions, and sometimes even vehement disagreements (the infamous “flame wars”), but there was an abundance of quality and expert information to teach, to learn from, and to share. (more…)

Today’s post has been on my mind quite some time, as I’ve spent a lot of time observing, processing, analyzing how prevalent groupthink has become and how the majority of people, it seems, have adapted that as the norm, and, in the process, just checked their brains at the door.

It’s important to remember that the brain is part of the body and it must be exercised just as the rest of the body is exercised to stay sharp, to stay aware, and to be discerning.

It doesn’t mean that every thought we have is right. But how do you know for yourself what right and wrong thinking is, if you’re not thinking at all? It doesn’t mean that every conclusion we draw from thinking is feasible, doable, or practical. But, again, how do you know for yourself whether conclusions – yours or others – are feasible, doable, or practical if you’re not in the habit of thinking in objective terms about costs and benefits, pros and cons, and outcomes?

We are becoming a society that is content to let others do our thinking for us. And there are a lot of individuals and organizations that want to do our thinking for us. It seems that most of us prefer to just go with the flow and agree to whatever all the things we’re attached to in our lives tell us are right, good, and true. And that’s a very, very dangerous place to be.

As quintessential leaders, we must be on constant guard against groupthink and what it conveys about trust and trustworthiness. My book, Building Trust and Being Trustworthy, is an in-depth discussion of the components that make up building trust and being trustworthy. Get your copy today!

There is not a human being on this planet who can afford not to know and understand this subject. Too many people don’t. That is, in part, why we are seeing the dominance of ¬†groupthink – enforced and accepted – and we are seeing a steep and rapid degradation in moral and ethical standards everywhere we turn.

As a refresher for those who may not have read George Orwell’s 1984 – a book that I also believe should be required reading for everyone on the planet – let me briefly define the idea behind groupthink.

Groupthink, generally, refers to a collective of people all thinking the exact same thing, with no deviation. The underlying desire and professed aim is harmony and unity, so to avoid possible disruption of that, individuals are discouraged and sometimes threatened from objective analysis and truth and proof tests of the accepted thinking.

Loyalty to the group is emphasized over everything else, including truth, and any questioning of the group thinking is seen as disloyal. Therefore, all creativity, all objective analysis, and all truth and proof testing is squashed and, if it occurs, the individual is deemed dangerous and untrustworthy.

The problem with groupthink is that when bad ideas, old ideas that didn’t work the first time around, wrong ideas, unworkable ideas, not-very-smart ideas, and untrue ideas come in, since no dissension, no checks and balances, no questioning is allowed, they become part and parcel of the working body of information within the group.

And bad groupthink becomes badthink and the derailing of the entire group has begun.

Individuals in this environment, such as Orwell’s Winston Smith, know that their mental – and these are rarely, if ever verbalized, and when they are, they are verbalized very, very carefully (if you watch The Tudors, think of how Thomas More handled a groupthink he was not a part of – I would definitely take the same road he took until I was left no choice, as he was not, and then I’d lay it out as concisely and concretely as it has been written and rewritten in my thinking ) – reality checks, proving, testing for truths are very dangerous and that elimination – whether literally with their lives or symbolically by being cast out and banned from the group – is inevitable. There is no other outcome at some point. It’s an accepted fact.

Why is groupthink such a powerful card that some people in leadership positions want to play? Why do they play it? What does it say about trust and trustworthiness? What does it say about respect?

Groupthink is imposed because of fear. Fear of losing power, fear of losing stature, and fear of being proven wrong. It is imposed as a means of complete control. It says to those its imposed upon that they are not trusted and they are not trustworthy. It also says they have no value and, therefore, are not worthy of any respect.

However, you’ll never hear those reasons stated out loud. Instead, you’ll hear words like “loyalty,” “unity,” “collaboration,” and statements about “being on the same page.” There is always a certain amount of coercion and guilt that accompanies these words and statements that play on the emotions of a species – that’s us humans – who have a strong desire for connection and attachment to other humans. And the possible deprivation of that is why groupthink is so powerful for a lot of people and why society accepts it, in general, hook, line, and sinker.

There are way too many examples of groupthink and its repercussions in our society that is literally saturated with it now to discuss them all here.

Marissa Mayer - CEO - Yahoo!But the story about Marissa Mayer’s banning of telecommuting at Yahoo! this week encapsulates groupthink in such as way that it put the icing on the cake of my thinking about this subject for me. I’ll give a few examples of why.

One of the banes of groupthink is the reintroduction of archaic and unfeasible ideas from the past repackaged and remarketed as “new and fresh” thinking. It really shows outdated and stale or no thinking, and it shows the absence of quintessential leadership.

I’ve read widely on this decision by Mayers and have been thinking about it a lot with my own professional background in technology. It makes no sense for a lot of reasons.

Yahoo!’s business, as are all high-tech companies, is encompassed by mobile computing – having the technology to do whatever you need to whenever it needs to be done. Its benefit is specifically what she is banning in this memo.

The everybody-has-to-be-in-the-same-physical-location-or-nothing-will-get-done is not only an archaic idea, but it also has been proven untrue.

Telecommuting workers, on the whole – if you’re lazy telecommuting, you’ll be lazy at an office – are more productive and contribute a higher yield of results to companies because they’re not in an office, going to meetings all day, answering inane phone calls and emails all day, listening to their coworkers talk – and much of that talk is not about work – all day.

Meetings can still take place, face-to-face, with current and emerging technology, so nothing’s lost if someone needs that face time. To say otherwise is dishonest. I say that because I’ve heard this as the kingpin argument too many times and it’s simply untrue.

But the meetings tend to be focused and shorter and not the colossal wastes of time that most meetings in the office are when all the disorganized thinkers who also have a penchant and need to talk out every single random thought in their heads take over and kill productivity for hours at a time.

Telecommuting also represents a huge reduction in overhead for companies and for employees. For companies, it means less equipment, less office space, and less office consumables, which represents a significant cost savings and a better bottom line. Employees save money and time – that they can spend working – by not having to drive, often, long distances to an office. Employees are also eligible for tax benefits by having and maintaining a home office. It’s a win-win situation.

Mayer’s contention that Yahoo!’s employees will be more collaborative, more innovative and more productive by all being in the same physical location is badthink.

The reality is that if employees aren’t productive, collaborative when the need arises, and innovative as telecommuters, then they will not be productive, collaborative, or innovative anywhere else. That’s a skill set issue, not a location issue.

But what Mayer misses in this edict is the lack of quintessential leadership that has been in Yahoo! for years. If those in leadership positions don’t communicate vision, don’t develop and communicate strategies and goals, then all the employees basically end up doing their own thing, whether they are working from home or working at the office.

Instead of Mayer taking ownership for her responsibility as CEO – and admitting the lack of quintessential leadership in the past – she is essentially blaming Yahoo!’s problems on the employees. That is badthink and that is unquintessential leadership.

Another aspect of groupthink in the Yahoo! example comes from Mayer’s “one-size-fits-all” perspective. That is not only a foolish perspective, but it is an unquintessential leader perspective. Mayer is clearly an extrovert. She thinks like an extrovert. She acts like an extrovert. And she expects everyone in Yahoo! to think and act like an extrovert.

Mayer gets her energy from interaction with other people. She took only two weeks of maternity leave when her son was born last year and got back into the office, where she was surrounded by a lot of people. And that’s fine, because that’s what extroverts do.

However, with her faulty groupthink – which is believing all her employees will be energized by all the people around them 10-12 hours a day – she doesn’t realize that an inordinately high percentage of people in technology are introverts. Introverts get drained quickly of resources by a steady and continuous stream of people interaction and it reduces their productivity, innovation, and collaboration.

So here’s an example of the result of badthink. The introverts who are forced to come into the office now will not be roaming the halls, sharing lunches with their colleagues, or all the other random “here’s-a-spark” encounters that Mayer envisions happening when everyone’s onsite. Instead, the introverts will hole up in their cubes, earbuds and iPods engaged, and work alone. If they venture out for food, drink, and bathroom breaks, they will choose times when they are least likely to be hung up, and the food and drinks will come back to the cube with them.

And they’ll be somewhat less productive, somewhat less inclined to spend extra time working on projects, and very unhappy. What will most likely happen at Yahoo! because of this new rule is that they will lose some of their best employees, who will go to other high-tech firms who recognize the value of telecommuting.

Mayer will be left, then, with the same telecommuters who didn’t work when they were at home, but now they’re in the office not working, and she’ll also be left with a lot of disgruntled employees, who would normally be good workers, with morale issues because even if they haven’t telecommuted, they always knew it was an option if something unexpected came up, and now they’ve basically been told “come to the office or else.”

Groupthink is something that we as quintessential leaders must be aware of, must resist, and must ensure is not how we lead our teams. It’s a subtle enemy. It’s a dangerous enemy. It’s a destructive enemy.¬†