Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Seven Learnings from Jury Duty


"When you go into court you are putting your fate into the hands of twelve people who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty."

I didn't expect my first jury summon to end up in me getting selected to be a juror...yet that was the case. It did put a lot of the other stuff on hand in the back burner...initially I was a little cranky -- thinking about all the things that needed to get done, my To-Do List, my gym classes missed. However, I soon got into the spirit of "By the People For the People"...and by the end of it I was glad I was a part of the process (from the 12 Angry Men which is all men...to 8 men and 4 women in our Jury, where one of the woman became the Foreperson (yes I am talking about me) does seem like some progress).The gist of the case - a civil case over a car accident that happened some years ago, with the plaintiff claiming medical, pain & suffering.
The jury was an interesting mix of people from a yoga teacher, to a customer specialist, a really involved research scientist, a ditzy woman (no I am not talking about myself...and really sometimes I wonder if she was in the same room as me), a public company CTO, a guy who wore designer nail polish (yup I said guy!) among others...as I met these people that I was going to be spending almost a week with...I had a flashback to a movie that was a requisite for one of my courses in Non-Verbal Communications and Group Dynamics - 12 Angry Men. The movie was on to something - I was really struck by how the lessons I learnt as a part of this Jury will hold me good stead at work
  1. Long gone are the days of my way or the highway...it's obvious that to reach closure with the decision and for everyone to feel a part of the process it will require a society with a cooperative value system rather than mechanisms and systems dominated by individualistic efforts. If I had my way the decision would have been very different and absolute. I didn't believe that the Plaintiff's case had a leg to stand on and would have awarded "zero" pain and suffering. Yet, as a part of a group where 3 individuals believed that the teenager deserved pain and suffering compensation, the decision was different, though not very radical for the defendant...
  2. “being willing to stand alone” is uncomfortable but it is ok to be uncomfortable if the decision comes from your strong beliefs and the reality is even though I am mocking the ditzy woman -- the strength of her conviction that the teenager had suffered was unbendable and unshakeable...having that kind of conviction in the face of dissent is absolutely admirable (however frustrating...and seriously was she in the same room as me???)
  3. There was a sincere dialogue towards a solution.  In my experience, respectful listening and sincere consideration tends to influence others in the group in a similar manner. So important to consider in work life where we tend to run roughshod on people. 
  4. Constructively integrating opposing views can contribute to developing effective coalitions - what struck me the most was our decision was an integration of the group's view...our views were too radically opposed for us to reach a consensus but I think we reached a decision that all 12 jurors agreed with
  5. Just listening - sometimes we think when we talk we sound so smart and say amazing things...but  just shutting up and listening really works. I am learning to shut up and make it about you not me...easier said than done!
  6. We really did avoid the pitfalls of Group Think..."putting unanimous agreement ahead of reasoned problem solving”
  7. Embracing Diversity and valuing it gave us a greater capacity to adapt, discuss and agree...reaching the desired state i.e., the decision.
If you haven't watched " 12 Angry Men" and have 92 minutes to spare...I urge you to do so -

If you don't...you read my blog post ;-)
I would like to leave you with a quote from the movie - " I don't believe I have to be loyal to one side or the other. I'm simply asking questions."

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