6 Effective Ways to Avoid Groupthink

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon which occurs when a group is under the pressure for unanimity. In the case when a group’s need for consensus exceeds the individuality of group members, a situation of group think takes place. The term groupthink was designed by social psychologist Irving Janis the year 1972. Groups affected by groupthink focus on harmony or conformity in the group which more often than not, results in illogical and dysfunctional decision making.

It leads to deterioration of moral judgment, individuality, creativity and mental efficiency. It often occurs in situations when the focus is on completing a task, mainly due to time constraints; in such cases, individuals allow any one group member to take the lead in decision making, putting aside their judgements and opinions. Groupthink also occurs when workflow processes do not appreciate or accommodate change; or when one is under social pressure to agree with the majority.

avoiding groupthink

In yielding to groupthink, members often choose to ignore other alternative solutions because they do not want to be perceived as trouble makers or lose face in the group. Groupthink therefore, results in members of a group ignoring critical points of evaluation. It leads to complete failure of considering the future consequences of their decisions.

In order to avoid and overcome groupthink, it is important to first understand the perils or dangers that stem as a result of it. Teams that practice groupthink often demonize members who disagree with the group. This, therefore, conditions members to fear challenging a decision. A very common example of this would be a team member refraining himself from raising an issue even though the consequences of a faulty decision are apparent, in order to avoid not being supported by other team members.

It is important to take into account the following steps to avoid and overcome groupthink :

1. Develop an Alternative

develop alternative

It is important to challenge your team into assuming that their first solution can be rejected by the management and they should be ready with a second one.This also enforces and encourages a strong and unbiased leadership in the organization.

2. Invite External Perspectives

invite external perspective

One of the most effective ways to overcome groupthink is to invite external perspectives at various stages of a decision making process. Members from another department or group could be invited to give their views on the decision of the group and put forward their viewpoints to reach the best decision. External consultants too, could be given the mandate to facilitate a team meeting.

3. Delay a Rushed Judgement

delay a judgemental

It is always beneficial that a healthy and detailed discussion is encouraged. If a decision or judgement is rushed into, group members may not be encouraged to voice out their opinions or have the time to think a decision through. Hence, a lengthy discussion with each group member being encouraged to raise issues, if any, should be encouraged.

4. Avoid Quick Criticisms

avoid criticism

When group members are quickly criticized, they tend to avoid voicing their opinions and viewpoints or raise objections when a faulty decision is being made. Hence, leaders and supervisors should refrain from passing quick judgements or criticisms at a member’s viewpoint. It is important to let the group members know that their questions and suggestions are welcome, no matter how trivial they might sound.

5. Accept Team Conflict

accept team conflict

Conflict is a part of our daily lives – in movies, in our home, at workplace. Treat conflict as an integral part that leads to a solid outcome. If there won’t be any conflict, all sides of an issue will not come to light and the decision will not be in the best interest of the team and the organization at large. Hence, encourage debates and conflicts.

6. Create Subgroups

create sub groups

Smaller groups allow members to feel more comfortable in sharing their thoughts and opinions and not get pressurized into groupthink. It helps them voice their opinions to a larger crowd when they are surrounded by people who share similar thoughts or agree to their viewpoints.

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