"The enemy of rational thought is 'groupthink', and when you're collaborating with others to...
- set priorities,
- make plans,
- solve problems, or
- make decisions,
...groupthink is always a threat, especially in cultures that celebrate consensus.
Groupthink happens when consensus becomes more important than correctness. When you take a historically successful, consensus driven culture that promotes from within, you're going to have a lot of close relationships. And if you put that company under extreme stress and time constraints, the risk of groupthink becomes much greater. And here's why...
- In these companies, the leaders can struggle to be impartial, and people want to follow the leader because they've been successful.
- There's often a lack of diversity and outside perspectives too, because they haven't been needed.
- And the stress causes these management teams to circle the wagons and adopt a "us against the world mentality" and no one wants to be outside looking in.
- In stressful times, consensus feels safer because it's a group dynamic and you don't want to feel alone.
- And when you have time constraints, it's easier to just go along, to get along.
So, let's say you work in a company like this and you want to help manage group things. What do you do?
- If you're in a meeting and you're the leader, keep your ideas to yourself until you hear what everyone else has to say. That way you won't influence what people are thinking.
- You've got to acknowledge and warn against groupthink. And when you see it happening, you need to call it out.
- You want to encourage disagreement. In fact, when consensus comes too easily, you should assume there's groupthink. And you can say something like: "We're missing something. What is it?"
- You should invite outsiders into your meetings and ask their opinions. They're not worried about hurting feelings, they don't know your sacred cows, and they can see things the group may miss.
- And think about adopting a devil's advocate. Appoint a devil's advocate, someone that can shoot holes in the group's assumptions, present counterarguments, and think through unintended consequences.
Remember, group think is manageable, but you have to treat it like the enemy."
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