What is Groupthink?

Groupthink in the workplace is defined as the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility.  It most often occurs when statements are made by one individual, and the rest of the group does not hold the sense of psychologically safety that is necessary to challenge the ideas presented. Those who aren’t comfortable giving their real opinions or insights end up agreeing to avoid conflict or potentially awkward situations.  

Avoiding ‘groupthink’ is necessary to encourage diversity in thinking, innovation, and prevent errors resulting from such quick decision-making. With the learning provided by executive coaching companies and their services, teams can start building a safe space at work where individual thought is instead sought out to navigate solutions. Below, we have compiled 3 tips you can utilize to help avoid biased group-thinking in your workplace.  

1.Encourage Constructive Debates and Feedback  

An important factor of leadership is the ability to create an environment where employees feel comfortable stating opinions that contrast with ones previously shared without the fear of backlash, or punishment. One way to achieve this psychological safety during meetings is to conduct exercises that appoint a member of your team as a ‘devil’s advocate’. Asking them to dispute statements from the opposing side of the spectrum freely will instill confidence in their voice so that they are comfortable doing so during real discussions that affect the company. Fostering such a culture where dissent is considered a valuable and necessary part of decision-making reduces the risk of forced agreement and defaulting to a single viewpoint.  

2. Diverse Team Composition   

When it comes to who is in the room during important conversations about company decisions, consider the composition. Is there an array of professional backgrounds, cultural aspects, gender, and age – or is everyone similar in such regards? Where there is diversity, there are perspectives. Having a diverse team lessens the risk of groupthink because you guarantee a wider spectrum of mindsets and opinions. This is important!   

For example, an older, male, senior executive may not have the same experience as a young, female, employee who is new to the company. Having a diverse team means that conversations are less likely to fall into the trap of agreeing for the sake of agreement and bring unique experiences and perspectives to the table.   

  3. Promote Individual Reflection Before Team Discussions 

 Before heading into a team meeting or brainstorm, leaders can prep their people to give them time to think independently and collect their thoughts. By giving them the opportunity to prepare their ideas and insights in advance, there is an increased chance of them sharing with the rest of the team. This approach will give them confidence in their own perspective, or simply give them time to think about the questions at hand and come up with strategies that they may not consider if put on the spot. The discussions will then be influenced by a variety of individual reflections, rather than altered and overtaken by the first dominant voice to lead the direction of conversation. This is a tactic that professional executive coaches will use prior to workshops or team sessions because it gives time for individuals to think independently and think deeply about what they want to say.  

Through actively taking steps and addressing the possibility of groupthink, organizations and leaders can take action to avoid decision-making errors in the future. Harnessing the diverse intelligence of their teams will encourage more informed, well-rounded solutions and conversations that make a difference.