Original Thought and the Threat of Groupthink
Four of my amazing clients share very similar stories. They came to coaching the way the work-persecuted always come in. Dispirited, despondent, dejected and depressed. It was as if they were lifeless labor camp characters from the Solzhenitsyn novel Gulag Archipelago. Their crime? Sharing original and creative thinking in their workplace.
The sharing of original and creative thought is to a Global Creative what oxygen is to a marine habitat. With it the Global Creative flourishes. Without creative expression the GC might as well be in one of the oxygen deprived dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay. So yes, when professionals with ADHD are denied the practice of articulating bold vision, they lose a vital connection to their purpose as well as to their add-value strength of making important connections often not seen by more conventional thinkers.
Many of my ADHD clients over the years have run up against formidable resistance to any kind of creative thought. Limited thinking based on false values (greed, control, complacency, comfort, fear or safety) can look upon creative thought as a threat. Don’t think that CEOs are immune to this pushback, either. Toxic groupthink can rear its ugly head in any professional dynamic. Creative and original thought can be perceived as a threat because new thinking introduces the concept of change and the brain sees change as a threat.
The Persecuted Four I mentioned at the top of the page, were each judged to be “Reckless and insensitive”, “Weak and ineffective”, “Dangerous and irresponsible”, or “Just plain stupid”. Two were in established organizations where the judgment came mostly from above but the other two were actually CEOs in their own startup companies where the judgment came from groupthink from below. Business Executive David Taylor speaks about the challenges of groupthink and offers several counter strategies based in vision, fact, objectivity and patience.
Changing groupthink in established organizations can be challenging but addressing groupthink in a new startup is not only possible but absolutely essential. Global Creative leaders can be quick to overlook essential planning especially if it is not in the urgent priority column. But establishing a company culture based on agreed upon principles can inoculate the enterprise from unhelpful groupthink.
What can you do?
• Take time to establish your vision and mission and get buy in.
• Identify thinking that is counter to the mission of the company and nip it in the bud. Modeling thinking that is focused on clarity and transparency and encouraging others to do so can be very effective.
• Identify fear-based opinion. This can quickly evolve into severe judgment.
• Clarify roles and responsibilities in strength areas. Employees who don’t feel valued will slip easily into negative thinking.
• Make up your company culture before one is made up for you.
Limited thinking and judgment by others is often based upon misunderstanding how your creative brain works. You are thinking brainstorm! While others are thinking another goddamned initiative! You are sharing your far reaching vision and others get lost in the shear broadness of your scope.
Take time to craft your creative message - make it digestible and relatable for others' consumption. Present your vision in linkable sections or chapters building it like a well-told story.
What happened to the Persecuted Four?
The two in established organizations took different paths. One left academia to create her own positive work culture as a writing coach. The other stopped trying to jump through hoops put forth by others and focused on the daily actions that would add irrefutable value to the business and fulfill him as well. He focused on being productive and stopped wondering what others thought.
The two startup CEOs both reestablished their own boundaries; identifying and extinguishing conflicting agendas. They retooled their messages—articulating expectations and measurements for success—for employees who challenged them, to either step up or step out.
I'm amazed how some work cultures still cling to old rules and outdated thinking. A day is coming when we will embrace 'cognitive diversity'. With our market driven economy, organizations will have to think differently and exhibit ‘cognitive dexterity’. This is only possible when cognitive diversity is embraced and not shunned. It starts with organizations valuing talent and creative expression. It starts with taking a stand against the limitations of groupthink.