Is Your Team Suffering from Groupthink? Here Are 5 Things to Do About It

February 5th, 2016

Decision making is tough enough – and it becomes even more complex when there are groups involved.

Groupthink is a term coined by research psychologist Irving Janis. It is tied to poor decisions that arise out of teams or groups based on the concept that when ideas are not challenged, they can lead to less than desirable outcomes.

  • In one study, a researcher analyzed email communications for 187 teams at a single company, using digital analysis and social network software. It was determined that while social connections boosted a team’s initial performance, too much cohesion eventually led to diminished results.

Teams who suffer from groupthink tend to set silo boundaries and define the world only from a single viewpoint, shutting out exterior opinions and blocking any potentially contrary ideas. You may see it among teams who are convinced that their predetermined strategy is the only way forward.

Take these steps to prevent groupthink from hampering your desired business results:

Limit team sizes.

To avoid groupthink stifling the best ideas, limit the size of your typical work teams to fewer than 10 people. Be sure there are well-defined parameters for inclusion. Widespread casual involvement can lead to pressure toward consensus for the wrong reasons; for instance, decisions may be made “so people feel invested” or “because we don’t want to step on any toes.”

Invite external perspectives at various stages of the decision-making process.

Have procedures in place to protect external viewpoints and find ways to incorporate them into a group’s thinking and planning processes.

  • Encourage debate. Team members need to be comfortable speaking up. Ideas and opinions need to be challenged, if appropriate and beneficial.
  • Look for different personalities. A team should not be vanilla. Include unorthodox, creative problem solvers, as well as individuals who thrive on pressure, and those who judge options objectively. Choose people with different styles of thinking and communicating.

Delay any rush to judgment.

It may seem like a relief to reach a decision quickly, but don’t rush the process. Did everyone have a chance to chime in, or did a few influencers appear to lead the group decision?

  • Have a strong leader. If this person believes that there wasn’t enough debate, they should delay a final decision and ask that more research be done.
  • Lengthen team discussion. Use a structured approach to vetting the issues. Encourage groups to incorporate nontypical discussion processes to improve the quality of their results.

Have teams develop a second solution.

Charge teams with assuming that their first solution will be rejected. Have them develop an alternate, very different second solution and be prepared to defend it.

Include a devil’s advocate on the team.

This is a contrived role – and team members may know that. But injecting a devil’s advocate onto a team can be very valuable. Their role is to purposely shoot holes in a team’s “perfect picture.”

  • Have rules on respecting the devil’s advocate’s perspective. This way, the group will learn and benefit from this approach.

Do you need additional tips on optimizing the value of your work groups and teams? Call on the experts at Select Group, Inc. as you build, develop and retain your winning workforce. Read our related posts or contact us today to learn more about our specialized recruiting services.

Comments are closed.