Everyone has a different working style. Some prefer working as part of a team, while others like to work alone. The benefits of working with a group of people are well-known—it helps you realize your full potential, improves your communication skills and helps you empathize with other people. However, it also has some pitfalls. One of these is ‘groupthink’, a phenomenon where a group reaches a consensus without considering individual opinions.
Let’s understand this through an example. Suppose your team has to prepare a client presentation. Now, you want to incorporate an interactive element, while your teammates prefer the traditional PowerPoint. However, you give in because the majority is leaning toward the PowerPoint idea. This situation is common across organizations where the majority often overshadows individual voices.
Organizations should encourage their employees to be more open about their ideas and opinions. This is possible by following steps to avoid groupthink at the workplace. Let’s explore some ways of avoiding groupthink to promote a welcoming and friendly work culture.
How To Prevent Groupthink
It is important to listen to individual voices. Getting multiple perspectives before thinking things through can accelerate the decision-making process.
Former US President John F. Kennedy, or JFK, developed a four-step decision-making process to prevent groupthink. These were a result of a failed mission that was voted for by a majority of his advisors.
Here are President Kennedy’s four steps for avoiding groupthink:
1. Don’t be a specialist
Avoiding groupthink has a lot to do with how you approach a situation or a problem in your professional life. If you want to minimize groupthink, try not to look at a problem from a specialist’s point of view. An objective mindset will help you discover improved solutions and consider different ways to get there. Question everything even if it’s coming from another specialist. Even if you’re not fully aware of something, asking the right questions will help you get to the bottom of it.
2. Switch to informal and flexible meetings
More often than not, a formal meeting setup can discourage people from voicing our opinions. The conference room, for instance, is somewhat intimidating. Moving to an informal setup and opening the floor to people is another way of avoiding groupthink. Icebreaker games and other team-building activities can help people speak more freely even in a large group.
3. Meet without hierarchy
One of the most difficult things to navigate at a workplace is authority. We usually avoid going against our manager or team leader because we fear it may backfire and create a negative impression. Or you may find it difficult to step up to hierarchy and voice your opinions. In this situation, having a meeting with the team in the absence of your manager may encourage you to discuss ideas more freely. An informal setting without the pressure of pleasing your boss will help you take ownership of your opinions.
4. Break into smaller groups
Sometimes, individual voices get drowned out in meetings with a large group of people. Department-wide meetings often have a few bystanders who are unable to contribute freely. Breaking such meetings into smaller groups of three-four members may prove to be a lot more productive. Discussions in small groups are an effective way of avoiding groupthink because everyone gets enough room to speak up.
Groupthink may occur frequently in a professional setting, but you can take proper measures to minimize its impact on your team or organization. Working together with your peers and seniors is important for professional growth. You’ll learn to accept others’ opinions and, in the process, create a platform for yourself. Everyone in the organization should feel comfortable and valued enough to voice their thoughts.
You can learn more about decision-making in groups and how to avoid groupthink through Harappa Education’s Making Decisions course. This online course taps into the nitty-gritty of how to make effective decisions at the workplace. You’ll learn about important elements of a decision-making process and how to navigate your biases to exercise sound judgment. Develop the right mindset to become an effective and competent decision-maker.
Explore topics such as the Importance of Decision Making, What is Groupthink, Decision Making in Groups & Group Decision Making Techniques from our Harappa Diaries blog section and develop your skills.
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