How Groupthink Hinders Progress

By: Will Berkowitz

It’s human nature to hesitate in being the sole person to disagree with a group. When an entire group has confidently made its decision, it’s tough to be the outlier. Many of us succumb to the pressure and assimilate with everyone else. This is called groupthink. Groupthink can be detrimental to a company’s decision-making ability, and we must take measures to avoid it.

If you work at a company and notice a strong tendency for decisions to be made without much disagreement, it would be beneficial to look further into the communicative process. Many scenarios increase the likeliness of groupthink to occur. Whether you are an employer or an employee, you can make a significant difference in your company’s success by identifying common causes of groupthink.

When most of the group is looking at a new idea through rose-tinted glasses, it is improbable that someone will criticize the idea. This is where leadership needs to step in. Whoever is leading the conversation needs to take the most realistic approach possible. Trying to play devil’s advocate is a good idea because it encourages everyone to think of a perspective that isn’t being addressed. This can also promote someone who is thinking differently from the group to have something to agree with, rather than only disagreeing.

Leadership should make an extra effort to hear each person’s opinion and to be open-minded. This can be unrealistic if the conference has too many people. Thus, leaders should separate people into smaller groups so that if there is groupthink, it happens on a smaller scale. There can then be a more productive conversation when everyone comes back together.

It is vital to encourage criticism and to prove that it is accepted in the workplace. Actions speak louder than words, and it is crucial to welcome criticism, not just with verbal affirmation, but also body language that matches.

Disagreement leads to the most optimal decisions. When there are more perspectives, there are more ideas. There is also an opportunity for employees to communicate through different viewpoints and strengthen bonds. Groupthink will hinder progress, and therefore leaders must prevent it from disposing of potential game-changing ideas.