You Don’t Need Consensus
November 15, 2016

In the last month I’ve heard the following phrases in so many meetings with clients, whether young startup founder or c-level executive:

“Oh but Mushambi, I need everyone on board this idea first.”

“I need everyone to like me, I need everyone on my team to agree with me”

“Everyone has to follow my vision.”

“I have to have consensus!”

When did this happen?

Consensus can be important. It’s viewed and praised as a valuable part of leadership and management. We can use it to make sure we’ve looked at all perspectives and angels in a any decision process. It can also help us remain accountable to one another and uphold certain standards.

However, consensus can also be a formal process that hinders growth and success.

If you really want to grow, to smash the status quo, to be innovators… Consensus? It’s got to go…

You don’t need it. Not one bit

Here’s why:

It don’t mix!
It don’t mix!

Consensus is to Innovation as Oil is to Water…

This principle is age old. We learned this when we were 12.

Oil and water simply don’t mix.

The way two substances interact depends on the molecules that make up the respective substances. Water and oil don’t mix because their molecules are arranged differently, their density is completely different and they can’t attract to one another.

It’s the same with consensus and innovation.

If you put 5 people together in one room to work on a project. It’s proven that they will be more conservative with their ideas and approaches. Why? In the face of multiple decision makers and multiple opinions, everyone want’s to play it safe.

Let’s not get too extreme!

Let’s not get to crazy!

Let’s go for the sure thing.

And let’s for sure make sure no one thinks my idea is stupid!

The continual process of seeking approval to share ideas, experiment and test a new approach starves out our creative mind and desire to be innovative.

“Nothing is what happens when everyone has to agree.” — Seth Godin

You don’t need approval. You don’t need permission. That behavior doesn’t foster anything but doubt and second-guessing. It doesn’t lead to break throughs.

I speak to a lot of managers who walk in and want their employees and teams to go be innovative, to go make water out of wine and to change the company forever. Then they say, but do it according to our rules, our constraints, or “ethos” and check-in with me at every step of the way so I can make sure its’s something we can actually do right now.

It’s like telling Usain Bolt to go run! But please, don’t run too far or too fast.

How many of you have that approach in your business? Or have had that forced on you?

No matter how hard you try you aren’t going to get water and oil to mix. It’s impossible.

It’s also impossible to make everyone understand, make everyone happy or make everyone agree.

So say no right now. #ConsensusMustFall

Open up and think outside the box without worrying about who is or isn’t onboard. Build for success and not public opinion.

What’s holding your innovation back?
What’s holding your innovation back?

Consensus Kills Progress

Apocrypha at its finest…
Apocrypha at its finest…

While the authenticity of this well shared quote is debatable it carries the ethos that Ford lived by. Many use this quote to justify ignoring customers, however it points out quite the contrast; Don’t expect anyone to help you envision the future.

True game-changing ideas rarely are born out of consensus. Research, observers study and analyze. But most importantly believe in yourself.

This is especially true for entrepreneurs. Not everyone is going to understand your dream. Family, friends, partners, even employees. But it’s not their job to get your goal. It’s yours.

Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Ariana Huffington, Jack Ma… if any of these people waited to get everyone on the same page our technology, shopping, transportation and media wouldn’t look the same. It wouldn’t have evolved to where we are today.

We’d still be riding horses.

Nothing slows work down like waiting for everyone to agree.

Consensus is slow, requires diplomacy and is expense. What entrepreneur has time and money to waste?

Waiting to convert everyone to believe in your dream slows you down to a dead halt.

Innovation, especially in 2016 has to be tested and prototyped rapidly. If your processes and procedures don’t allow you the ability to test fast, fail fast and test again fast you simply won’t keep up.

“The sweet spot for an innovator is to be right about a new opportunity before the rest of the world has reached a consensus.” — Andy Rachleff

If your building caught on fire now, would you call a meeting? Would you get everyone’s advise on the best way to get out? Or would you try by all means to just get you? Its the same with innovation.

There’s a fire storm happening right behind you in every single industry. Own the decision making process. Make a unilateral decision today to innovate or get burnt up.

If anything slows you down or keeps you from always progressing, it needs to be cut away and now.

Stick to what your insides tell you
Stick to what your insides tell you

Trust Your Gut And Your Vision

We can go into the science and psychology and ton’s of research behind the importance of trusting your gut, but in it’s simplest form, your gut, your subconscious has been collecting and cataloging information your entire life. It is a tremendous map and central hub of insights, feelings, and experiences. You might be able to tap into all of it all the time, but your gut immediately has access to that “feeling” we’ve all experienced.

When you gut sends out that alert it’s telling you to pay attention to something! With very quick analysis its tells you “Yea that feels right” or “NOPE! stay away.”

Scientists say that your gut is a series of cognitive processes that happen so quickly we don’t even realize we’re even thinking. The fastest way your brain can tell you it’s opinion about something is through that heightened heart rate, exciting blood rush or that pit in your stomach ache

That feeling must be trusted.

You also need to trust the vision that has been implanted in your head.

Are you going to stop your dream simply because your buddy, sister, mom, spouse, old boss don’t see it? Because they don’t get it?

Your own doubt is strong enough, but certainly don’t let someone else’s doubt hold you back.

For those that doubt you, invite them to the end of your story. To the launch of your product, to the sale of your brand, to the future. Then send them out of your locker room to the rafters. Better yet, tell them to listen to you play this game from their radio’s at home. Force them to be mute spectators only.

Not everyone has the vision or strength to see what you can see. Trusting what you feel inside doesn’t need permission from anyone else. It’s all yours, use it for you.

Consensus doesn’t take you far
Consensus doesn’t take you far

It’s Not a Dictatorship

This doesn’t mean do what you want. The practice of forgetting about consensus is not a license to be a tyrant.

Collaboration still lives on.

It’s not the same as consensus.

Collaboration is beyond finding unanimity and general agreement but instead the action of working with someone else to produce and contribute meaningfully.

Innovation is in fact facilitated through collaboration.

The culture of consensus is neither supportive nor exciting. Collaboration brings speed, energy and the ability to implement. Instead of placing your energy in bringing all the hierarchies on board, spend them on an open excited workplace that leverages off of one team member to the other.

Success is not about working alone or about agreeing on every step of the way, but instead about everyone dedicating the time and energy required to deliver the best work possible.

Your startup, business or division is not the UN.

And it probably needs to be a whole lot more efficient than the UN too. Stop trying to get everyone to agree, stop being so scared to make someone upset, stop being so terrified of judgement. Is your fear of criticism greater than your desire to succeed and see your vision come to life?

Step on some toes. Follow your passion and actualize. Your naysayers will thank you for it later.

What do you think? Does everyone have to agree for you to succeed? What culture do you set at your business?

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