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Group Working: Avoiding 'Groupthink'
by Chris van der Leer on April 21st, 2017

​Groupthink can be defined as ‘a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.’ (Wikipedia, 2017).
 
With this definition in mind, my interpretation of ‘groupthink’ is where the individuals put the needs of the group first by hiding in the perceived safety of consensus while ignoring the reality of their decision.
 
This can lead to group members being hesitant to speak up because they do not want to go against the direction of the group. Furthermore this can also lead to group members starting to question their own decisions and might encourage individuals to keep their true thoughts and opinions to themselves.
 
From a group perspective the phenomenon of groupthink is likely to encourage the group to make a premature decision without doing due diligence first. This is likely to raise risks for the group because an optimal decision will not be made.
 
There are a number of ways to avoid group think, however I believe that these two are the most effective:
  1. The most effective way of discouraging groupthink in a group is to encourage all group members to contribute their thoughts and ideas to the group. In order to do this it would help if the group environment encourages group members to speak their mind without a fear of being judged.
  2. It would also help for an independent third-party to be involved with group activities; this will ensure that the group stays focused on what is actually happening in front of them. As an example, in my experience a Senior Manager is usually elected to meet with the Group to discuss progress, ensure that the project is staying on scope and to check that decisions are appropriate.
There are more creative ways to avoid this phenomenon but these are the most effective.
​This article is taken from a paper written by Chris van der Leer on the development of group processes. It is licensed under CC BY 2.0. This means that you are free to license and adapt the contents of this article by giving credit to the original author.


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