Why Do Teams Sink To The Lowest Common Denominator?

There are two ideas at work. The first is the concept of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguousness), introduced by Bob Johansen, in his book, Leaders Make The Future (2009).  The second is Peter Senge’s well–known idea of Collective Intelligence from The Fifth Discipline (quoted here from Mastering Leadership, by Adams and Anderson, 2016) : “the collective intelligence and performance of most groups is well below the average intelligence and performance of the members.” Put another way: a company cannot outperform the collective effectiveness of its leadership team.  In a leadership talk I gave to several CEOs last week, I discussed these concepts in detail. People take hard positions, listen poorly, react emotionally, are cautionary, play politics and make self–interest more important than the collective interest.  Leaders who can tap the collective intelligence of their teams, can exceed the common denominator effect and create real leverage to navigate in a VUCA world. If not, you will have a lot of expensive meetings, and less than ideal business results, with little return on the time and money invested.  Leaders must be facilitators of collective intelligence in a world of escalating complexity.

Steve WakeenComment