"Hold on. You're way ahead of me."

I apply these seven words a lot, and they should be said a lot more than they are. This essay by project management consultant Scott Berkun helps to explain why. Titled, "Why smart people defend bad ideas," it provides a rundown of some of the ways that project groups go wrong even when their members are clever and competent.

I don't agree with every point, and much of the article deals particularly enough with business contexts that it may not apply to science. But anyone who has worked in science will find many items here to recognize.

Any new piece of science may be brilliant, but we can only know that it is as good as the author, editor, and two anonymous peers force it to be. A lot of scientific papers are filled with jargon, unclear logic, and unstated assumptions. Why are we sometimes less critical of research than we should be?

Just because everyone in the room is smart doesn't mean that collectively they will arrive at smart ideas. The power of peer pressure is that it works on our psychology, not our intellect. As social animals we are heavily influenced by how the people around us behave, and the quality of our own internal decision making varies widely depending on the environment we currently are in.

My favorite part is the advice to those who are placed in the position of evaluating an argument that is strongly defended, but doesn't feel right:

Smart people, or at least those whose brains have good first gears, use their speed in thought to overpower others. They'll jump between assumptions quickly, throwing out jargon, bits of logic, or rules of thumb at a rate of fire fast enough to cause most people to become rattled, and give in. When that doesn't work, the arrogant or the pompous will throw in some belittlement and use whatever snide or manipulative tactics they have at their disposal to further discourage you from dissecting their ideas.
So your best defense starts by breaking an argument down into pieces. When they say "it's obvious we need to execute plan A now." You say, "hold on. Youre way ahead of me. For me to follow I need to break this down into pieces." And without waiting for permission, you should go ahead and do so.
First, nothing is obvious. If it were obvious there would be no need to say so. So your first piece is to establish what isnt so obvious. What are the assumptions the other guy is glossing over that are worth spending time on?

If these points resonate, read the whole thing and remind yourself that you're not alone.