Think about this quote I recently came across in an article on a popular Christian website for few seconds…
When you think about it, the entire New Testament tells the story of a nation (the Israelites) who believes that they completely understand the scriptures, who God is and what He requires of them. When a prophet (who turns out to be God Himself) shows up on the scene to tell them otherwise, they kill Him – having complete and utter confidence that they’re correct in their theology and practice.
During this last fall and winter, I published a series of articles I called Consistently Wise: Insights Into Church Decision-Making. The material in this series was largely based on what I’d learned from the book The Wisdom of Crowds. While this isn’t labeled a “Christian” book, there are deep insights in it about group dynamics and how humans function best together that I simply applied to church life.
This article in particular addresses one of the major issues that plagues churches from being consistently wise – groupthink.
When the majority think they’re always right
In it, the writer talks about how it’s common in groups of people for the majority to think they’re always right.
Ultimately, this kind of thinking leads to two outcomes…
- Being wrong more than you need to be – leading the group to being inconsistently wise
- Alienating the minority with a different perspective – leading to division, loneliness, etc.
It may be hard to find a more eye-opening example of this than what he gives above.
In order for people to avoid these situations, they must avoid being a group that simply reverberates the same positions and ideas. They must embrace perspectives and possibilities. They have to draw them out, listen to them and consider.
The author of the article goes on to say…
If we learned anything from the Gospels, it’s that in a blind world, the person with sight is thought to be insane.
Relying on the team for solutions
An online group I’m a part of was discussing this concept and a friend of mine in the group (Richard Jacobson) gave this eye-opening testimony about avoiding the subtle trap of groupthink, both in the business world and as a pastor of a church…
This concept influenced the way I ran my own team at Apple. And I have the stats to prove our particular team was more effective than all the others at our specific location.
You see, every quarter, all employees were given anonymous surveys which let them rate their satisfaction with the company, our location, each department and each member of leadership.
Due to a number of rapid changes that happened across the company, we went from having one of the highest-rated locations to one of the very lowest. Most of the leadership was unable to adapt to the challenges which were being asked of us.
Naturally, my team was just as affected as any other but because I communicated with my department and relied on my team to come up with the best solutions possible – given the limitations we had to work with – there wasn’t this “us vs them” mentality between my own staff and myself.
So, while the other teams’ scores tanked, mine was continually a 95-100 in terms of employee satisfaction and we often got straight 100’s from customers (unlike other departments). In fact, it was only our department’s score which bolstered the overall score enough to keep our location from being the very worst in the company. 😢
Yes, it was a lot more work for me to run my department this way, and decisions often took longer. But the results spoke for themselves.
The funny part is: when I was a pastor in a church, this ISN’T how I did things. So, only a handful of my volunteers flourished in my department—meaning the ones who were a natural fit with the way I did things—while several others really struggled.
I had a leadership title – “pastor” – but I wasn’t really a very good leader in those days. It was actually when I started working at Apple that I think I began to operate like a real pastor.
I’ve come to believe that group dynamics and how they work in the Kingdom is one of the most important things you can learn to grow as a Christian. After all, God’s purpose for creating was the Church, and that’s a group.