Think about the time when you didn’t really feel like skipping class in college but you did it anyway because all your close friends were doing so. Or maybe you agreed with a senior at work even though you knew he was wrong because everyone in the team did so. 

Group dynamics play an important role in the way we make decisions in our lives, especially in the workplace. You may hesitate from expressing what you really think because you don’t want to oppose your senior at work, or you’re new in the organization and don’t have that confidence yet. But this may affect the decision-making process because the senior would not be able to take into consideration a different perspective that you may have brought in. 

The Definition Of Groupthink

 

Groupthink is a phenomenon where decision-making depends on general consensus. It tends to ignore individual voices that may present a different point of view for a solution. This can substantially affect the decision-making process and, in some cases, may even lead to negative consequences.

Let’s explore ‘groupthink meaning’ and ‘groupthink theory’ to better understand this complex term. 

What Is Groupthink Theory?

Groupthink theory finds its origins in George Orwell’s ground-breaking novel Nineteen Eight-Four about a dystopian society controlled by an unseen and unknown power. 

The term ‘groupthink’ means that the majority always controls the outcomes, and often overlooks and ignores opposing opinions and voices of an individual or a few people to ensure harmony and unity in a group. But this is a distorted—and often harmful—strategy that doesn’t reflect well on any organization.

Examples Of Groupthink

Say, you don’t agree with a particular sales strategy even though your team members are quite confident that it’ll succeed. You choose not to speak up because you worry about how it’ll affect you professionally, even though your opinion may have the potential to save the company from making a mistake.

This is how groupthink psychology prevents you from acting upon your judgment in the midst of a majority.

Characteristics Of Groupthink

 

There are many ways to assess whether your team or organization unintentionally supports a groupthink culture. Let’s explore some of the common characteristics of this phenomenon.

  1. Sometimes, based on a winning streak, a particular team may become overconfident and impose their opinion on everyone else. This is quite common and stems from the belief that "everything will work out because it did in the past".

  2. Managers and team leaders may get into the habit of grouping opinions into one affirmative response. You may think that everyone’s on the same page, but it’s not always the case. Some people may get left behind and this can seriously impact group dynamics.

  3. Many of us are reluctant to challenge the hierarchy at work. We don’t feel comfortable opposing our seniors because we worry about the potential negative outcome.

How To Minimize Groupthink

The modern way of doing business promotes a flat organizational structure where everyone is equally involved in decision-making. There are no cubicles or closed-door cabins; instead, managers sit next to their associates. This kind of culture is more open and invites different opinions. Managers should work toward cultivating a similar culture in each team to strengthen bonds among teammates and encourage them to be more open with each other.

Normalizing open communication with bosses is another great way to minimize groupthink. If you’re confident about a particular idea and you believe that it’ll help your team achieve their goals, you should present it to your manager. This will also help you become an effective decision-maker because you’ll learn to take ownership of your decisions.

Another way to phase out groupthink from an organization is by holding informal or casual meetings. Managers could forego the conference room for a friendlier space like the office lounge area. This may help people speak more freely. 

Conclusion

Groupthink is common and even though start-ups have started paving the way for a more open organizational structure, there’s still a lot of work to be done. The first step to minimizing this psychological phenomenon is to understand its many facets. Harappa Education’s Making Decisions course will teach you the important features and impact of groupthink and how you can mitigate its impact at your workplace. Learn how to find your voice at your workplace, communicate with your seniors and be confident about sharing your perspectives.


Explore topics such as the Importance of Decision MakingHow to Avoid GroupthinkDecision Making in Groups & Group Decision Making Techniques from our Harappa Diaries blog section and develop your skills.

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