Have you ever fallen victim to Groupthink?
Groupthink occurs when the desire for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic appraisal of the alternatives. Group members try to minimize conflict to reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints. The primary socially negative cost of groupthink is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking.
Many of you have seen groupthink before and you probably didn’t know there was a term for it. In the course of my career I have seen this phenomenon over and over again. Just last week I witnessed a classic example, which has prompted this blog. Here is the short version on my groupthink encounter last week.
I have been working with a business for over a year preparing it for an eventual sale; we will probably go to market in 2015. This is a family business with 13 owners, six of which are active in the business.
All of the owners don’t get together very often, but, in this case, there were some serious issues that needed to be dealt with. Nine of the thirteen owners were present for the meeting. I have familiarity with this group and over the last year I have developed a relationship with most of the owners. I have an understanding for what each of their needs and desires are. There are some very bright and strong personalities in this company.
This business thrives on creativity. Yet, while there were very strong conflicting opinions prior to the meeting, the meeting was falling flat because no one would voice their opinion. To use an overused phrase, they were beating around the bush. I watched in amazement as independent critical thinking flew out the window with numbness and bewilderment filling in for the sake of harmony. I am certain the meeting would have ended with a decision that would have not been for the good of the company. Fortunately, we were able to get past this phenomenon and were able to accomplish important objectives.
If you participate in group meetings, watch for these groupthink clues; collective rationalizing, closed mindedness, incomplete processing of alternatives, lack of desire for complete information and little participation. Instead, to get things going, foster creative conflict, don’t be afraid of non-conformance, be the devil’s advocate, have an open mind, and last but not least, be impartial.
Have a good week!