Have you ever found yourself considering speaking up in a meeting and then decided against it because you did not want to appear unsupportive of the discussion at hand? If so, you have probably been a victim of Groupthink.
Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within organizations, teams, or groups. It exists when the desire for harmony overrides a realistic evaluation of options and alternatives. The essence of this decision-making trap is the irrational pursuit of consensus above all other priorities.
Groupthink was originally studied by psychologist Irving Janis in 1972. He found that a lack of conflict or opposing viewpoints led to poor decision-making, because alternatives were not fully analyzed and because groups did not gather enough information to make an informed decision.
When is Groupthink more likely to happen? Janis suggested that Groupthink is most prevalent when there is:
- A strong, persuasive group leader;
- A high-level of group cohesion; or
- Intense pressure from outside influences (like budgets, bosses, or members) to make a good decision.
Groupthink can stifle teamwork, undermine important decisions, and leave all but the most vocal team members dissatisfied. So how do teams avoid or remedy groupthink?
Be on the look out for signs of Groupthink, so you can nip it in the bud. It’s important to have a process in place for checking the assumptions behind important decisions, for validating the decision-making process, and for evaluating the risks. Allow each group member to contribute individually, minimizing the odds that persuasive, vocal group members dominate the decision making process.
At Epic, we partner with a psychology Ph.D.to examine this and other psychological thinking traps. Check out our video interview here to learn more: http://vimeo.com/32941909