Avoiding Groupthink

Groupthink is a common psychological phenomenon that often results in dysfunctional decision-making. And groupthink is probably present most of the time. Yet the best leaders can stimulate dissent and debate within their organization, and also keep such interaction constructive.

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Groupthink or 'going along with the crowd' is the human phenomenon when a group of people tend to align and coalesce their thinking around the same outlook. It's important, of course, for people to get along but groupthink or 'not wanting to rock the boat' very often results in not fully informed decision making... and that's putting it politely.

Groupthink often results in oversights and poor results. It's no surprise that diversity is good for society, well it's also good for decision-making. It's important to have diverse ideas and opinions expressed when considering product development efforts. In fact it's the only way we can ensure a thoughtful and critical evaluation.

The problem with groupthink is that unconsciously or not, people tend to avoid expressing controversial or divergent ideas because they don't want the discomfort of being a contrarian or introducing friction into the group. Psychologists and sociologists talk about groupthink creating an illusion of invulnerability which is an inflated certainty that their thinking is correct. This results in a group overestimating their decision-making capabilities and under estimating those of their competitors. 

So how do you avoid groupthink?

  • Select a diverse group of people from diverse backgrounds
  • Encourage people to speak up
  • Learn to be comfortable with discomfort (it'll save you much more discomfort down the road)

Stay tuned for more "Field Notes" with me, Tom Triumph in the coming weeks. If you have questions or comments feel free to leave them below! Thanks for joining me on IT Pack!

Tom Triumph

Consultant, Author & Speaker, Tom Triumph Consulting, LLC

Thomas Triumph helps companies grow by collaboratively working on vital areas of their business - Technology, Product Development and Marketing. He is a hands-on executive with a record of achievement managing dozens of innovative products within several different industries - and within Fortune 500 and startup companies. Tom is the author of the book Evolve or Die: Lessons for World-Class Innovation & Creativity. The book contains a culmination of experiences, thoughts, and learning-- much of it from world-class innovators and creators. Tom has helped large organizations act more nimbly in the market and small companies scale. Leading Marketing and Business Development, he has launched numerous technology products and led cross-functional teams – including participating in two technology revolutions – less invasive medical devices and the Internet/software. Tom has been a part of some remarkable technology and business growth success stories (as well as some misfires). Building submarines out of 55-gallon drums in grade school, he eventually fulfilled a childhood dream of living aboard a research ship (Jacques Cousteau was on the Board of Directors) and tending to the mini-sub. Tom also wrestled in the Olympic Trials, founded a consumer electronic company (Athletech), and worked for leading companies to help launch and lead: medical device products, software, Internet companies, professional consulting services, and the largest hovercraft ever built in the U.S. from composite materials (25 ton). He's an enthusiastic and collaborative team player who maintains a good sense of humor. He resides in North Carolina and is an ultrarunner who envies Tom Hanks’ long run as Forrest Gump.
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