The Risks of GroupThink

Groupthink Theory is concerned with how group dynamics and leadership style can impact the quality of decision making. Groupthink is defined as the tendency to seek concurrence within a group instead of encouraging dissent and a robust review of alternative decisions.Groups are at risk of groupthink if there is high group cohesiveness, insulation from outside opinions, a directive leader, and high stress.

Symptoms of group think include:

  • Illusion of invulnerability
  • Belief in the group’s morality or superiority
  • Rationalization
  • Stereotyped view of out-groups
  • Pressure to conform
  • Self-censorship
  • Illusion of unanimous thinking
  • An exaggerated sense of collective competence

You can reduce the risk of groupthink and encourage effective decision making by:

  • Conducting a thorough review of the decision objectives;
  • Encouraging a comprehensive review of information and alternative decisions;
  • Analyzing the risks of the preferred decision;
  • Guarding against biased information processing;
  • Ensuring that leaders support each group member as a critical evaluator; and
  • Ensuring that leaders remain impartial

Effective group dynamics can lead to strong decision making and improved operations. Group dynamics are complicated considering our inherent and often unconscious biases, the wide variety of personalities in a group, and the prevalence of overly directive leaders.

Is your organization at risk of groupthink?

 

Reference

Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.M.(Eds.). (2005), Applied social psychology: understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.

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