Three things teams can learn from Jury Duty

Three things teams can learn from Jury Duty
Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm / Unsplash

A few weeks ago, I received the dreaded (to some) Jury Duty Summons and had to report to my local courthouse for a day of sitting, waiting and doing my civic duty (re: people watching). 

While I got settled in for the day, I quickly began to realize how the entire concept of jury duty didn’t really differ from the practices we preach everyday with marketing teams. 

Both are trying to answer the age-old question: what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real?

Kidding! The actual question*: How do you get a somewhat random group of peers to work together on a shared task and produce an outcome against a defined timeline?

Here are the three things that I am taking away from the day: 

  1. Beware Your Affinity Bias 

So often we hear ‘are they a good culture fit?’ when evaluating staffing choices. While important, I’d argue it’s given more weight than warranted in most situations. 

The jury system definitely has its flaws in terms of bias but there is never a pause to think - do you think the jurors will all like each other? 

It just works. Because it has to. 

How can we keep this in mind when designing teams and make sure we are prioritizing the right requirements and skills needed to get the job done? 

  1. Extremely Obvious Autonomy 

There is a moment when you are actually called in front of a judge for a real case with real implications where sh*t. gets. real. The shared responsibility and collective accountability that comes from this realization is front and center. 

There is no manager or boss to hide behind. Others in the courtroom don’t get a say – they only provide input. The decision rests with the jury. 

So often this degree of inherent ownership gets lost on teams and you end up with folks just asking for a RACI to tell them who is responsible. Why does that happen on teams and not on a jury? 

It’s because we say individuals are responsible and then we undo their decisions (and work) to just do what leadership or ‘stakeholders’ wanted to do in the first place. 

You very rarely (and under very specific circumstances) see a judge overturn a jury’s decision - no matter how much they disagree. 

If you really want teams to succeed, you need to stand behind the responsibilities you say they have through your actions. Trust their expertise throughout the process and soon they will take that accountability seriously. 

  1. Evidence-Based Decision-Making

Once sat on a jury, do you simply chit chat with the attorneys and your fellow jurors? Nope. You are tasked with listening and reviewing TONS of evidence so that you can make a decision based on facts rather than assumptions. 

While we know that individual experience and expertise come into play before a decision is made, leveraging facts allows juries (and teams) to start from a shared reality.

This one is a constant challenge for marketing teams - especially when you get into the realms of subjective materials such as creative or strategy. Yet, it’s still critical to consistently ask: what data, results and evidence can you use to help make your decisions? 

Ultimately, I wasn’t selected for the jury but I left with a nice boost of inspiration and learnings to bring back to my own team. It also got me thinking about the insights hidden in our everyday lives for how we should be showing up on and for our teams. The answers are usually simpler than we think.