How to Prevent Groupthink in your Work Team

October 29, 2021
How to Prevent Groupthink in your Work Team

As business owner, it is important for you to know about groupthink, or the extreme tendency to maintain the same consensus within a group. Members of a group affected by groupthink automatically censor their individual ideas – which could be important contributions – in favor of the predominant idea in the group or the group leader’s preference. The purpose of groupthink is to avoid debate and to feel accepted by the group. The group’s consensus becomes more important than common sense and intelligently solving problems.

At first, this idea of collective unanimity may sound ideal. Regardless, groupthink can lead to negative consequences such as:

  • Preventing new ideas from forming, as well as not objectively analyzing current ones
  • Promoting a tense and hostile environment toward other points of view
  • Triggering unethical, immoral, or irrationally risky decisions that can produce material, monetary, or credibility losses
  • Negatively affecting group members’ morale and motivation

To better visualize this concept and its consequences, the following is an example of groupthink in the workplace:

Javier and the other eight division leaders are summoned to a meeting with their supervisor, who tells them he has a new product idea. After explaining the idea, Javier understands the product has no place in the market, and he can hear the other group members discussing that they lack the budget to launch it. Javier prepares to offer an alternative but, before he can explain it, another leader expresses his concern with the project’s complexity. The supervisor abruptly interrupts him, assuring him that he has the necessary resources for the new product, which the other group members second. The members who have their doubts feel pressured to go along with the idea. Months later, after the project fails, the company has lost massive capital and the voices that offered to improve the ideas with their own contributions.

Preventing the adverse effects of groupthink is within our reach. However, because groupthink is a silent and often imperceptible behavior, it is important to stay alert and take concrete actions to combat it.

Some ways of preventing groupthink in your team include:

  • Inviting your collaborators to express their doubts and opinions about the ideas presented. Ask them if there is something they consider could be a better option or what should be reconsidered.
  • Setting aside adequate time for the process of evaluating ideas and decision-making – don’t rush it.
  • Maintaining a diverse team with collaborators from different backgrounds, experiences and specialties
  • Establishing an explicit and concrete system to prevent groupthink. For example, a “corporate fool,” a person designated to question all ideas and promote debate in the group.

Practice these strategies so everyone in your team can express their ideas and opinions.

This article is for informational purposes and does not represent an endorsement or a guarantee of accuracy. Popular Inc., as well as its affiliates, subsidiaries or related companies, are not and will not be liable for any special damages, direct or indirect, resulting from the information contained in this article. If you require any type of advice, you should always request it from a competent professional of your choosing.