How Group Think Damages Sales Results

One of the greatest stories in sports this year has been the rise of Jeremy Lin, a point guard for the New York Knicks. A Harvard graduate who was not drafted by professional teams, Lin finally got a chance to play after some of the Knicks’ stars succumbed to injury. Unbelievably, Lin led the team to victory and became a hero to New York basketball fans.

Lin’s success has become national news, generating headlines for the Knicks. In my view, the most fascinating part of the story is why did so many pro teams and their management executives fail to recognize his talent and draft him in 2010? In an era of big money sports, how could a “Jeremy Lin” slip through the cracks?

Well, actually Lin’s talent was foreseen, but not by the so-called “experts.” Ed Weiland, a contributor to Hoops Analyst (a basketball analysis web site), had examined Lin’s body of work and forecast that Lin was one of the best point guards available in the draft. The problem? Weiland was ignored because he was not an insider to the professional teams. While Weiland is an avid basketball fan who tracked statistics and was able to isolate data that others disregarded, he was not part of a professional basketball team. He was able to be more accurate than those who were “supposed” to know which begs the question: “How is it that an outsider can be more accurate and perceptive than insiders?”

The simple answer is that outsiders can be objective, while insiders have a difficult time dealing truthfully with people they work with and even manage. Who wants to deliver the message that drastic change is needed in an organization? “Group think” shuns or downgrades the different viewpoint.

So how does “group think” happen and what does it look like? Here are eight indications of the problem:

• Illusions of invulnerability where the group thinks it is invincible and can do no wrong.
• Collective efforts to rationalize or discount warnings.
• Unquestioned belief in the moral correctness of the group.
• Stereotyped views of the out-group, often as too evil, weak or stupid to be worth bothering with.
• Self-censorship as individuals decide not to rock the boat.
• Pressure to conform.
• A shared illusion of unanimity (everyone always agrees with everyone else).
• Protecting the group from contrary viewpoints, by self-appointed ‘mind-guards’.

Download the white paper to find out more on group think.

What does it mean to management teams in mortgage banking? The industry is undergoing a period of fundamental change where old ideas do not make sense anymore. Outdated ideas include: it is OK to not screen objectively for sales talent; that experienced means that the originator is trained; that training at sales rallies is effective; by not customizing training to the LO at on boarding; and believing that no standards are needed for being a coach or manager as long as you can produce. These ideas might have worked in the past but not today when customers demand professionalism in sales and costs must be controlled to be profitable.

When was the last time you had your sales process reviewed by an outside expert? Isn’t it time to really look at your talent, culture and process? There is a reason why Weiland was right about Lin.