Why don’t more people make critical comments in groups? Because they fracking know that there is a price to be paid, even (especially?)if their contributions are very helpful… This from a fascinating article in Ecology and Society called The Evolutionary Basis of Rigidity: Cells, Minds and Society
Consider the experiment (Boulding 1964) in which groups had to complete complex assignments. In half the groups, the experimenters introduced a “plant,” someone trained by the experimenter to take a critical attitude (“devil’s advocate”) in reference to group decisions. The groups with the plants consistently outperformed those without the plants, reinforcing the idea that conflict (within limits) plays an important role in problem solving. Nevertheless, in the second round of the experiment, when all groups were asked in a secret ballot to eliminate one team member in order to improve performance, all groups who had devil’s advocates chose to eliminate them, thus eliminating their competitive advantage. Apparently, few groups recognize the value of diversity and conflict in group problem solving. Is this silly, or might there generally be an advantage to coherent groups dancing to the same beat?
That Boulding reference is this;
Boulding, E. 1964. Power and conflict in organizations. Further reflections on conflict management. Pages 146–150 in R. L. Kahn and E. Boulding, editors. Power and conflict in organizations. Basic Books, New York, New York, USA.