Groupthink is defined as: “the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility.” It’s basically a pit where great ideas go to die before they even get a chance. Individuals may become stymied and might not pursue or bring up an idea because of this dangerous social phenomenon.
Think about how Groupthink can change the dynamic of a brainstorming session. In a room of eight people trying to create a new incentive program, add the pressure of deadlines from senior leadership, and pretty soon an idea will be thrown out. There may be a couple more ideas but if one strong personality is advocating for a specific idea during a brainstorm then others could start to hold their ideas back. Self-censorship is counter-productive during brainstorming and the group will take an illusion of unanimity. Now you have a possibly weak idea and quiet dissent stirring in a group.
Below is a list of ideas and practices that may help you deter Groupthink from happening:
- Cultivate a diverse company. When people have different backgrounds and experiences they can pull from that to present different viewpoints.
- Don’t stifle idea generation by shooting down ideas. Empower everyone to share their thoughts and concerns. It is especially important to allow everyone to voice his or her opinions/ideas. You don’t want to set up an environment where people are guarded about their ideas.
- Someone needs to be the devils advocate. This will challenge the group to think differently and generate more ideas.
- If your group agrees right away don’t act on it. Let the idea simmer and give some time to other thoughts.
- Invite people from outside of the group to gain new perspectives.
Hopefully this has helped you recognize Groupthink and will help you avoid it as well. For more information on Groupthink read:
For an in-depth analysis of Groupthink: http://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/elj/vol4iss1/Rose_V4I1_pp37-57.pdf