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Are you guilty of groupthink?

April 2, 2018

Larry Fink, CEO at Black Rock – the world’s largest asset management firm – has built the business around diversity. But he brings a new context to this theme, which he describes in a recent interview.

“People who are engineers like to be around other engineers. People with a background in political theory are generally around other people in political theory. People who have an affinity with one political party or another are generally friends with people in that political party. There are so many places where you see congregations of people around ideals, around education, around race. We have to break that down. Firms fail when you have groupthink. You generally have groupthink when you have replicants all around you.”

Fink goes on to welcome diversity – but makes the point that one critical aspect is frequently missing and that is ‘diversity of mind’. He illustrated this with the following comment: “It’s very easy to see across a business and ask, how many women are there? What’s the gender mix? It’s very easy to see if there is a diverse group of men and women with diversity of race. We don’t spend enough time asking: Do we have an organization with diversity of mind? I think this is where most companies fall down.”

Contracts – groupthink – what can you possibly mean?

Are those of us in contract and commercial management – those of us who produce contracts – guilty of groupthink, of both lacking AND ignoring diversity of mind? If you are not sure, consider for a moment this quote from a recent blog by Stefania Passera, an expert in design:

“As an information designer, my job is to solve complex communication problems. Contracts seemed to be a genre of documents in dire need of a user-centric makeover. We can pick any contract, and, at a glance, they just look and feel and read the same. This, from a design point of view makes no sense: why so much sameness in different documents for different users with different needs and skills, produced by different organizations to regulate different transactions with different goals? At best, we are foregoing the opportunity to create a meaningful touchpoint and build positive relationships and experiences with suppliers and clients. At worst, we are leaking economic and relational value!”

When you consider the diversity of people who need, use or are affected by contracts, it is indeed remarkable that ‘groupthink’ has remained so powerful, that the legal community, backed up by contract managers, has succeeded in perpetuating uniformity of approach in an area of such importance to business and the wider population.

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