By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
Litigators expect to be fighting with the other side. After all, that's what trial is about. But when it comes to making decisions within our own teams, we should avoid criticism, all pull as one, and cooperatively come together around a common strategy, right? Wrong! Instead, we should be fighting it out, criticizing the choices we don't agree with, and debating over the best course of action. An innovative study on decision making and team function shows that working groups actually tend to be more effective not when they're brainstorming and avoiding judgment and criticism, but when they're engaged in in an atmosphere of intense debate and even criticism.
If at some point in your education, you've been taught the techniques of traditional brainstorming, then this advice will sound counter-intuitive. The foundation of the cooperative thinking technique is that, initially at least, we should welcome all ideas and refrain from criticism or debate. The belief is that by avoiding criticism, we decrease conflict and fear of evaluation and as a result we allow more and better ideas to flourish. That sounds logical, but the problem is that there isn't much empirical support for the power of brainstorming - it doesn't work that way in the lab. Instead, settings that welcome internal debate and even criticism appear to do much better. The message of this post is that your trial team is an ideal setting for putting this advice into practice. After taking a look at the research, I make a couple of recommendations for effectively bringing the fight to your team.