How to Recognise and Avoid Groupthink

Here’s a familiar situation – you are in a meeting discussing ideas and trying to make decisions. Maybe one person leads with a suggestion, and no one disagrees. You reach a consensus on a decision and the meeting is over. Everyone goes back to what they were doing.

This seems like a positive and efficient meeting, right? After all, the point of the meeting was to collaboratively reach an agreed upon decision. But was it really the best decision that won, or just the loudest? A phenomenon that is all too common in workplace meetings is something called groupthink. The term was developed by a social psychologist and refers to a strong social bias that occurs when people strive for harmony and conformity within a group, often to the extent that critical reflection and alternative opinions are suppressed for the sake of consensus.

Groupthink can lead to disastrous decisions that could stunt your business or produce counterproductive outcomes. It is therefore crucial to detect and avoid groupthink before it is too late. Here are some things to look out for to recognise groupthink:

Absence of outsider input
When you are working with the same people every day for months or years, groupthink can be inevitable. You get into a routine and learn what to expect from each other – this can foster fears of rocking the boat and prevent new modes of thinking. If your workplace environment is insulated from outsider input, your decisions could be results of groupthink and may not be the best decisions for your business. Extending your business discussions to external thinkers, such as Brainiact, can prevent groupthink and encourage fresh ideas and the best solutions for your business. Having an outsider’s perspective can also be a learning experience for you and your team as you are exposed to fresh thought processes and new approaches to strategies, especially if the outsider is a qualified professional.

Lack of diversity
It can be natural for business owners to hire people who they can relate to and think similarly to. However, a lack of diverse backgrounds and experience levels in the workplace can lead to groupthink. If everyone is drawing from similar life experiences, they could be making assumptions and incorporating biases into the decision-making process without being challenged or questioned, which can lead to problematic outcomes. A lack of diversity in the decision-making process is also worsened without outsider input to provide variation and new perspectives.

Strong group cohesion
When a group is highly cohesive, it may just seem like they are collaborative, cooperative, and work well together. While this may be true, a highly cohesive group is especially prone to groupthink. Cohesiveness can create an environment where there is pressure to conform to avoid disrupting the peace. This limits the potential for criticism, dissenting opinions, and new ideas.

Avoiding groupthink is key to any successful and innovative business. To help your business ensure that you are making the best decisions, and not just the easily agreeable ones, here are some ways you can avoid groupthink:

Incorporate outsiders
Having an outsider’s perspective on situations is always useful and can be especially handy for eliminating groupthink in the workplace. Actively incorporating outsiders into your team’s decision-making process can positively disrupt the routine and encourage diverse and innovative ideas that will inspire business growth. Brainiact is the perfect way to receive outsider input and avoid groupthink. When you come to us, you’re not signing up for any regular outsider’s perspective – you are getting the input of skilled and experienced marketing specialists.

Encourage conflict
Encouraging conflict in the decision-making process may sound counterintuitive, but having professional and constructive conflict can significantly reduce the risk of groupthink. One way you can consider incorporating this is through encouraging “devil’s advocate” thinking in a team meeting to challenge the ideas being raised and to encourage participants to think like the enemy. This is a fun way to spark cooperative debates and test the strength of the ideas being put presented.

Structure meetings with intention
The way a meeting in the workplace is structured can drastically influence the extent of groupthink in a discussion. For example, incorporating multiple feedback opportunities during a meeting can encourage participants to speak up and critically reflect on the decisions being made. Another idea is to break your team up into smaller groups to discuss ideas among themselves before coming together to share them as a larger team. This will ensure that everyone gets an opportunity to share their thoughts and actively participate in the discussion.

One of the best ways to eliminate groupthink is to gain the insight of an outsider. Brainiact is the best kind of outsider – we know what we’re talking about when we provide you with advice and suggestions.

Contact us today to find out more about how we can help you.