Escape the Group Think Trap

25th Feb , 2016

Group think creeps up

Group think creeps up and can dominate just about any group activity. These crucial group processes include problem-solving, developing opinions, wholesome discussions, and critical decisions that need to be made.

Group think can manifest itself particularly where members of a close-knit group are like-minded with similar opinions to each other. This leaves little room or tolerance of independent, critical evaluation or challenge. Insidiously, the group thinkers mentally put more emphasis on conformity than on independent thought.

Shallow decision making process with group think

Groupthink can lead to shallow processes in the decision making process. It blinkers the participants who think they are doing the right thing because it feels good and every one else has agreed to the outcome. This can lead to less than optimal outcomes (and sometimes disasters) and can occur in any group that works together at all levels of organisations from governments, companies, businesses, charities, member organisations, family businesses, education providers, religions, political groups, families, neighbours, friends and all other organisations.

Group think can cause dysfunction and undermines

If there is a lack of awareness and is left unaddressed groupthink can cause dysfunction and undermines individuals’ and the organisation’s ability to rationally govern, make decisions and to operate optimally. This can be particularly important in the leadership areas of organisations such as in companies’ board rooms. In the board rooms you would expect a broad assessment of all options need to be thoroughly examined, various facts and opinions considered after robust research and debate before decisions are made. After all, these decisions will impact critically to the culture and performance of the company.

Leaders must be aware of group think

A Chairman of Board therefore should display leadership and balance in encouraging diverse input and be aware of the impacts of group think.

Group think, at worst, can lead to misguided loyalty, too much reliance on one person or a sub group’s opinions, in-group stereotyping, lack of impartial leadership, narrow mindedness, and overconfidence in the decision making process with self-congratulations when critical input has not been sought or perhaps heeded.

International Business Mentors can counter group think where appropriate

Whilst it is not the role of a Business Mentor to attend and influence decisions that are being made in a group context, an individual being confidentially mentored can be guided by an experienced independent sounding board, who is not part of the group think process.

Many organisations are unaware they even have a groupthink mentality, or would be in denial if it were even suggested.

For example, in a business context where the MD may for example have the final say in most decisions, it is very important to hear and consider other viewpoints. Therefore, a diverse and constructive management team is vital for effective communication and consideration of various opinions and research that may differ from the group think accepted view of the world. Many group thinkers become passed over by colleagues and by competition that has a more open view of the world and are more able to adapt to changing markets etc.

Get an independent view from an International Business Mentor

A carefully matched business mentor can assist directors, business owners and senior executives to give critical input to encourage thinking outside of the square, give a reality check, and offer an independent viewpoint. An International Business Mentor is experienced in groupthink processes and will challenge and support the person they mentor to better perform.

Chris Cartney February 2016

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