How to Avoid Groupthink.

What is groupthink?

Groupthink is a term coined by psychologist Irving Janis in 1972. It occurs when each member of a group or team attempts to match their opinions to what they believe to be the common consensus of the group. In an environment of groupthink, minimising conflict becomes the primary goal rather than producing concrete results or achieving true consensus.

Negative Effects of Groupthink.

While it feels safe and natural to spend time with others who think the way we do and hold similar values, deep level similarities can enhance the effects of groupthink. The group becomes more concerned with maintaining unity than objectively evaluating their situation, alternatives and options.

The result is an environment where opinions and perspectives are not challenged. Groupthink causes groups to focus on what is generally known rather than focus on critical information that has not been yet explored. Transparent conversations are not always easy, as individuals are afraid to voice their opinions for fear of being ostracised or ridiculed.

How to avoid groupthink.

The good news is that groupthink is not inevitable. The first key is awareness, and the second is taking steps to actively avoid groupthink:

  • Create a team comprised of different personalities. Rather than surrounding yourself with people whose opinions mirror yours, include individuals who may have something different to offer.
  • Treat conflict as an essential part of the decision-making process. Too often we think of conflict as a negative, but it needn’t be. Conflict arises when tightly-held beliefs are challenged, and is part of a healthy team environment.
  • At every meeting, assign a meeting facilitator and someone to play the role of devil’s advocate. Rotate responsibility for these roles. This allows each team member an opportunity to step into an alternative viewpoint and challenge their own thinking and prejudices.
  • Maintain objectivity by including outsiders for crucial decision making. There’s nothing like fresh blood to keep the group on its toes.
  • Embrace constructive criticism. Encourage questions.
  • Analyse team behaviour with a quality assessment product such as Indaba’s DISCFlex Team Behaviour Report. Just select a team leader, select team members and get all the information you need to lead your team to peak performance. You can view a sample team behaviour report on our website.

If you’d like to learn more about how assessments can help combat groupthink, contact one of our friendly distributors today.