The Truth about Teambuilding>
Why Scientists Know More than Consultants

Consultants preach, and many managers practice, techniques they’ve read about, heard about, or learned from other managers. Unfortunately, many of those techniques have never been tested to find out if they produce the results the manager is seeking. As you will see in this chapter, scientists have proven we humans tend to make many decisions for irrational reasons without even knowing it. We have built-in biases and filters that can cause us to ignore ideas we don’t want to believe, and to believe something we did caused the effect we wanted. Yet an objective outsider might say another factor was involved or worse, that we didn’t get the effect we think we did at all. To fit in with the group who believe in this thing; or justify the money and time we were misled into investing in it; or avoid admitting we might be wrong, we humans will subconsciously filter out opposing information or jump through hoops of rationalizations instead.

This may be so hard to believe, you are tempted to stop reading this hypertext. Scientists call this “Confirmation Bias,” the tendency to seek out information that meets our beliefs and ignore anything that doesn’t. The uncomfortable physical sensations you might feeling—tightness in the gut or chest, faster heartbeat—or thoughts like, “That’s bull$%#!,” are the result of something called “cognitive dissonance.” We don’t like it, and our brains try to get rid of it in an easy way like Confirmation Bias instead of the hard way of opening our minds to new information. If you want to be a better manager, prove that you are “an open-minded person.” Resist that urge to resist cognitive dissonance and keep reading.

In this section, I first explain why objective sources of information about teambuilding are better than listening to consultants and most management books. A key article explains why we dismiss the message that changing team behaviors is harder than the quick fixes sold by those sources. To illustrate the point, I then dive into examples of management myths getting born right before my eyes. I wrap up with in-depth explorations of three areas where most consultants get a lot wrong: the importance of knowing personality types, the value of the open office, and the impacts of diversity in the workplace.

Sadly, that list is not comprehensive. The last section in this chapter addresses other management beliefs that are at best questionable and possibly false. My hope is that your better understanding of how and why these popular beliefs are wrong will make you question “how you know what you know.”

The techniques that work are harder to implement. But they will do a lot more to help the people you work for and with, not to mention improving your own performance appraisals and chances at promotion!

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