It is important to create an environment where teams feel free to say what they see because we all see different things. Of course this is true when we have distributed teams, but it turns out even when we look at the same scene, we see different things.

In an experiment first conducted in 1947 by Jerome Bruner, 10-year old school children were asked to estimate the size of either a blank disc or a coin with an adjustable spot of light. Children estimated the blank discs accurately but overestimated the size of the coins – and the degree of overestimation varied with the value of the coin. So a dime was overestimated more than a penny was.

The researchers had drawn the school children from two locations outside of Boston, one group from an affluent neighborhood, and one group from a settlement house. Now, the affluent children overestimated the size of the coins by an average of 20% while the non-affluent children overestimated the size by a full 50%. Coming from poorer families, they “valued” them more.

On the submarine we had to put together a set of complex and often conflicting patterns of information to estimate where the enemy might be. Sonar might have one picture whereas an intelligence analyst might have another. Rather than try and force the two to create a composite picture, we would let each person express their purest interpretation of the situation, and only after that was done would we try and merge the pictures together into a single composite.

So remember, with your team, give them the chance to express what they see, or know first, before introducing competing views. This will allow them to present their views before they become biased by the group.