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3 signs that you are in a group not a team

25th June 2015
Teams and GroupthinkThink about the last time you were part of a
group, where someone proposed an idea that you thought was quite poor. However,
everyone else in the group agreed with the person who suggested the idea and
the group seemed set on pursuing that course of action.
When you see this happening it’s a pretty good
indicator that groupthink is occurring and preventing creative thinking,
effective decision making, efficient problem solving and goals being met.
What is Groupthink?
It is a psychological phenomenon in which
people strive for consensus within a group. In many cases, people will set
aside their own personal beliefs or adopt the opinion of the rest of the group.
People who are opposed to the decisions or
overriding opinion of the group as a whole frequently remain quiet, preferring
to keep the peace rather than disrupt the uniformity of the crowd.
Why does groupthink occur?
In many cases, people end up engaging in
groupthink when they fear that their objections might disrupt the harmony of
the group or suspect that their ideas might cause other members to reject them.
Members place emphasis on everyone agreeing and want to be on good terms with
the group no matter what the cost.
Situations where the group is placed under
extreme stress or where moral dilemmas exist also increase the occurrence of
groupthink, as does a strong persuasive charismatic leader.
Team effectivenessSymptoms of groupthink
These fall into 3 broad categories:
Over confidence in the groups power
Limited thinking about a problem
Pressure to comply within the group
confidence in the groups power
You will see the group
become overly optimistic and take big risks believing they are invincible.
Alternatively you see members of the group rationalize thoughts or suggestions
that challenge what the majority is thinking.  This causes them to
ignore warning signs.
thinking about a problem
There is a belief that
whatever the group does it will be right as they all know the difference
between right and wrong. This leads members to ignore
possible moral problems and ignore consequences of individual and group
You may also get members stereotyping. This leads members of the in-group to ignore or even demonize
other group members who may oppose or challenge the group’s ideas.
Pressure to comply
The majority directly
threaten the person who questions decisions by telling them that they can
always leave the group if they don’t want to agree. Direct pressure to conform is often placed on members who pose questions, and
those who question the group are often seen as disloyal or traitorous.
members of the group take it upon themselves to discourage different ideas from
being expressed in the group. These “Mindguards act as self-appointed
censors to hide problematic information from the group.
This can result in people who have doubts to
hiding their fears or misgivings.
How to Prevent or Minimise Groupthink
There are steps that you can take to minimize
this problem when you see it occurring or prevent it from happening:
  • Breaking up members into smaller independent
    teams can be helpful.
  • As the leader of
    the group avoid stating your opinions or preferences when assigning tasks. Give
    people time to come up with their own ideas first.
  • Discuss the group’s
    ideas with an outside member in order to get impartial opinions.
  • Encourage group
    members to remain critical. Don’t discourage dissent or challenges to the
    prevailing opinion. Encourage alternative views and challenging of ideas.
  • As the leader be
    absent from many group meetings to avoid overly influencing decisions.
  • Have a process in place for
    checking the fundamental assumptions behind important decisions, for validating
    the decision-making process.
  • Utilise group techniques like brainstorming and six
    thinking hats when exploring a problem. 

It would be great to hear your stories on where you have
overcome groupthink, so please share them. We can all learn from your success.
important thing about groupthink is that it works not so much by censoring dissent
as by making dissent seem somehow improbable.”
James Surowiecki

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