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December 7, 2015

The danger of groupthink

“Our team members get along so well, I am not sure why we are unable to achieve our business objectives.”

Have you heard people say this in your organization? Or have you been on one of those teams? In many organizations, highly skilled teams are formed, only to have their team performance stifled by a mysterious virus-like issue. The cause of this is the dreaded groupthink.

Groupthink is when everyone in the group reaches the same conclusion, without debating an issue or addressing possible alternative solutions. On the surface, it may appear that everyone is working well together and there are no problems however, taking a closer look, you will find that group members have actually given up their ability to think individually, and are just going along with the group’s consensus in order to “keep things moving.” This often leads teams to make poor choices while missing opportunities for solving challenges that face the organization.

When teams fall into groupthink, they may be trying to avoid the following:

Conflict

People and teams often fear conflict for various reasons. It could be related to political issues within their organizations, or they may simply want to maintain a happy workplace. The fact of the matter is, when humans work together and are committed and passionate about the work they do, there will always be conflict. The challenge is managing conflict productively in order for people and teams to avoid groupthink.

Standing out

Yes, even in the age of social media, where everyone is comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions, there are still those “introvert” types within organizations that might go along with a group decision, even though they know it’s the wrong decision (and they have a better idea). In order to avoid this, managers on teams need to create an environment where the introverted team members are given the opportunity to speak-up and present their unique thoughts.

The Foolish one

Not wanting to look foolish is a common fear within the modern day workplace. The fear of looking foolish in front of peers and managers can lead countless numbers of teams into group thinking. Creating an environment where people are able to present innovative and thought-provoking ideas without judgment, removes the fear of looking foolish.

The first step towards preventing groupthink and realizing your team’s true potential is being aware of its existence. If you start to notice objectives are not being achieved, and employees seem to unanimously agree on everything, your organization may be suffering from groupthink.

About the Author

Paul BostonPaul Boston is the president of Actus Performance Inc., a high-performance development firm. Paul started his professional career working in the world of marketing and advertising with Fortune 500 companies and organizations around the globe. When he started racing at the elite level of triathlons, he discovered similarities between the approach to performance in his athletic and professional career. Paul now works with clients to help them understand the fundamental performance values, attitudes, and skills people, teams, and organizations need in our modern-day work world.

This post originally appeared on Paul’s LinkedIn page. Reprinted with permission.


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