Groupthink appears when the desire to group consensus and consistency outweighs the desire to achieve the best possible decision. Such a phenomenon can lead to a situation where such decision is taken, which is not in the interest of neither the group nor organization, but is the way to avoid inter group conflict. Groupthink is presented as one of the disadvantages of group decision making.
A documented example of this syndrome was a disaster of the space shuttle "Challenger". In preparation for the launch of the space shuttle many problems occurred and there were many doubts before launch. However, at each stage of decision process, people claimed that there were no grounds to delay or cancellation. Shortly after the start on the 28.01.1986 space shuttle exploded. As a result of groupthink 7 people of shuttle crew died.
To avoid groupthink, each member of the group should carefully and critically assess all possible solutions. The leader should not prematurely deliver his view. All members of the group should have a chance to comment freely. After the initial decision, group should carry out one more meeting, where each member of the group who feel the need, should be able to restate his view. A good solution is also dividing the group into two separate teams. Within each team discussions will be carried out, and then pros and cons of each teams will be confronted. This System is used by managers in the Gould Paper Company, Inc. and Sun Microsystem.
Advantages of Groupthink
Groupthink can have several advantages in certain situations. For example:
- It encourages group cohesiveness, which can lead to a sense of belonging and camaraderie among group members.
- It can provide a sense of comfort, stability, and security among members.
- It can help groups arrive at decisions quickly and efficiently, as members are less likely to challenge or question the decisions of the group.
- It can reduce conflict among members as they are more likely to agree with each other in order to maintain group solidarity.
- It can help create a sense of shared responsibility for the decisions made by the group, which can help foster a sense of ownership in the decision-making process.
Limitations of Groupthink
Groupthink can be a powerful tool for making decisions in groups, but it has several limitations that can lead to negative consequences. These include:
- Groupthink encourages conformity, which can lead to a lack of creativity and innovation. This can mean that the group fails to explore all potential options, leading to decisions that are not the best for the group.
- Groupthink can lead to "group polarization", where members of the group come to extreme decisions due to their desire for consensus. This can lead to decisions that are overly risky or overly conservative, rather than balanced and reasonable.
- Groupthink can lead to a "false consensus", where members of the group overestimate the amount of agreement in the group, leading to a false sense of security. This can lead to an overconfidence in the decision that can have negative consequences.
- Groupthink can lead to a lack of accountability, as members of the group may be less likely to take responsibility for their decisions. This can mean that mistakes are not addressed and corrected in a timely manner.
- Lastly, groupthink can lead to a lack of critical thought, as members of the group may be less likely to question the decisions of others in the group. This can lead to decisions that are not well-thought-out or are made without sufficient analysis.
Groupthink is a phenomenon in which groups prioritize maintaining consensus and consistency over making the best possible decision. To mitigate the effects of Groupthink, organizations can explore alternative approaches such as:
- The Devil’s Advocate approach, which involves introducing dissenting opinions to challenge group consensus and stimulate debate.
- The Nominal Group Technique, which allows group members to brainstorm and evaluate ideas individually before discussing them with the group, to minimize the influence of dominant personalities.
- The Delphi Technique, which allows experts to voice their opinions anonymously and reach a consensus more quickly.
- Brainwriting, which encourages group members to generate ideas and solutions anonymously and in writing, to reduce the influence of dominant personalities.
These approaches can help organizations reduce the influence of Groupthink and make better decisions.
|Groupthink — recommended articles|
|Disadvantages of teamwork — Group norms — Tolerance for ambiguity — Delegative leadership — Disadvantages of team work — 5 whys — Blame culture — Management by conflict — Styles of handling conflict|
- Janis, I. L. (1982). Groupthink: Psychological studies of policy decisions and fiascoes (Vol. 349). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
- Janis, I. L. (1971). Groupthink. Psychology today, 5(6), 43-46.
- Hart, P. (1990). Groupthink in government: A study of small groups and policy failure. Swets & Zeitlinger Publishers.
- Newell, A., & Simon, H. A. (1972). Human problem solving (Vol. 104, No. 9). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
- Simon, H. A. (1978). Information-processing theory of human problem solving. Handbook of learning and cognitive processes, 5, 271-295.