Let’s talk about the concept of the hivemind. The science fiction aficionados among you may have come across the term in a novel or show about space-faring alien species whose individuals think together as one being (Ender’s Game is a favorite of mine). But I’m going to keep things grounded for this discussion.
The overall idea behind the hivemind is that the collective consciences and experiences of several individuals can add up to something far greater than the individuals themselves. In essence, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Your knowledge, combined with the knowledge of those around you, equals a much wiser, greater unit. There’s a reason why so many major scientific discoveries occurred in pairs or groups. They, and likely a bevy of graduate students and assistants, were able to build off of each other’s ideas, creating a ladder leading to innovation. Watson and Crick, the Wright Brothers, the Curies, the list goes on.
The collective is more powerful than the individual – this is an intriguing concept and an incredibly powerful tool when you can make it a reality. But how do you make it happen? How do you get your coworkers and employees to reach that level of (to use a buzzword) synergy? Well, you can obviously custom-create events specifically targeted at achieving the hivemind concept. This is what a lot of consulting groups do when they have you play team-building and get-to-know-you games. But the most pervasive opportunities have long been ingrained in our business culture. Meetings.
According to a research study on meetings, executives attend 6-7 meetings a week on average with some CEOs attending 8 meetings per day! Now, whether or not business people meet too frequently is a debate for another time. But it’s definitely clear that people meet a lot and that the opportunities for hivemind are there.
Let’s get one thing clear, lots of people in a room talking does not automatically create hivemind status. It’s something that has to be cultivated and curated. People have to be willing to share their exact thoughts and ideas so that others can critique, comment and build on what’s shared. That kind of candor can be hard to come by, but not impossible to create.
Here’s a scenario for you. David proposes a great print marketing campaign, but admits that it will probably cost more than the allotted $50k budget. Linda, drawing on her sales experience from a past job, points out that the campaign could probably be pitched to other departments that could benefit from the campaign. Henry eats lunch every Friday with a print marketing guru, and mentions that he can probably get discounted supplies, bringing everything within budget. It was all David’s project, so he might feel embarrassed or angry that Linda and Henry came in making changes and adding to his plan. But in a culture of candor, this hive mentality can grow.
Now, how does Attentiv play into this (you knew it would)? Attentiv forces you to ask questions, get people involved, and consider everyone’s ideas and opinions on a level playing field. A lot of the software’s value comes because we get caught up in running meetings or finishing our presentations, and forget to ask other people what they think. The fact that most of the feedback is anonymous also helps remove the shyness and fear than hinders a sharing culture.
Keep in mind that the hivemind’s antagonist is groupthink. Groupthink may seem like a synonym for hivemind (group = hive, think = mind), but don’t be fooled. Groupthink occurs when everyone gets behind an idea because the highest-ranking or loudest person in the room proposed it. It also happens when people are afraid to share ideas or step on other people’s toes, so everyone just goes on with an idea for the sake of conformity. You can help eliminate groupthink by establishing clear guidelines before the meeting and by being the voice of healthy skepticism when needed.
Meetings take up so many resources, it’s about time that we got more out of them (and scheduling less of them wouldn’t hurt either). Access the hivemind and you’ll access some impressive potential.
Get a head start with a free Attentiv account here.
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