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Lock in that Answer

In the game show, “Who wants to be a millionaire” contestants answer trivia questions by selecting one of four possible answers. The game show host often makes a big deal out of having the contestant make a commitment to their selected choice and one of the catch phrases from the show is “lock in that answer”. Once the answer has been locked in, contestants are no longer able to change their minds.

In projects we too face many critical decisions and it is interesting to watch the dynamics as individuals and groups lock in their answers. Often the key decisions we make in a project are made in a group setting. At times significant conflicts arise as one individual or camp select one option while others feel an alternative is the best way to go.

Often what lies behind such conflicts is that both camps have locked in their answers. Rather than trying to understand the reasoning behind the opposing camp’s idea, they focus their energies on defending the validity of their own. Such a pattern of behavior can be highly destructive. Not only does it prevent the generation of potentially better ideas, it can also damage the interpersonal relationships that are a key element in project success.

It’s a natural process for us to take pride in our own ideas and it is easy to see how egos sometimes get in the way. It is however a sign of professionalism when individuals are able to present their own ideas, whilst also listening to the ideas of others.

While it is important to lock in a final answer, where individuals and groups lock in too early, unnecessary conflicts will often arise. My experience has been that people usually do have valid reasons behind the arguments they present. By exploring those reasons we leverage the collective intelligence from which the best options often arise.

2 Comments on “Lock in that Answer”

  1. #1 LLE
    on Sep 8th, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    Ha – I have several colleagues that do this, it really can disrupt the team…good observation.

  2. #2 Harvey J.
    on Sep 10th, 2008 at 1:45 am

    I had this situation come up a few weeks ago, both parties involved really dug in their heels…Next time I’m thinking I should lay some ground rules before the meeting begins…