Three ways to avoid groupthink

HumanergyCommunicationThree ways to avoid groupthink




Three ways to avoid groupthink

This week’s guest blogger is Kiana Thomas, Humanergy’s former intern and current young professional.

Watching the movie 12 Angry Men, I realized how big a role groupthink plays in decision making, and how important it is to avoid its pitfalls. I have fallen into the trap of going along with the crowd and letting my unique viewpoint get diminished.

Groupthink is when a group of people seek harmony and avoid disagreeing. They are apt to not see flaws in an idea or voice dissent, which can result in poor decision-making. This can create future problems because the best solutions can’t be found without everyone’s best input. And, heaven forbid, should a free-thinker challenge groupthink, this person may be criticized or even ostracized from the “in group.”

How can groupthink be avoided?

  1. Know your own biases. Take a step back and decide whether your opinion is based on fact or is influenced some type of cognitive bias. Groupthink encourages surface thinking, so dig deep on this one.
  2. Appoint a devil’s advocate. Designate someone in the group to purposefully see an opposing side. This will ensure both sides are shared and give room for open discussion.
  3. Anonymous voting. If you vote when making decisions, try doing so blindly, so people don’t have to be public about their opinions. This encourages people to be honest and not base their vote on others’ opinions.
  4. Do not be afraid to speak up even if you think you are the only person with a different opinion. Someone else may have the same idea, but they are not expressing it. Just be sure to pose ideas respectfully and not just to have an opposing opinion.

If you have not seen the 1957 classic 12 Angry Men, I recommend watching it. You’ll view a great movie and see groupthink and these tips in action.

Have a proven means for keeping an open mind and avoiding groupthink. Comment below or message us.


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Comments (1)

  1. Kiana – great point about watching out for Groupthink. I do disagree with your points 2 and 3. For #2 – appointing someone to be the devil’s advocate puts unfair expectations on just one person and allows others to support Groupthink. Each individual needs to share their honest opinion in every discussion. For #3 – a more productive method to get honest voting is to have everyone write their vote on a slip of paper, and have everyone, at the same time, turn them over. Again, this diminishes Groupthink and provides the opportunity for discussion and sharing of any differences you discover. Now, my suggestions will only work if you have created a safe psychological space for people to interact. This requires that blame and shame behaviors are not rewarded or supported. So, starting with asking why you have Groupthink may uncover a lack of feeling safe to speak up honestly. That would be where you would need to start the conversation.

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