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Is your group vulnerable to Groupthink?

The term  Groupthink was coined by social psychologist Irving Janis (1972).

Groups can enhance our progress but they can also apply pressure that can lead us to avoid evidence and abandon critical thinking.

Groupthink occurs when a group makes faulty decisions, surrender to coercions which result in neglecting or discounting evidence that challenges the groups values, beliefs, priorities and goals.

It is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when a group in which the desire for harmony or conformity results in irrational or dysfunctional decision making outcomes.

Janis identified 8 common symptoms of  Groupthink.

  •  Illusion of Invulnerability -Creates excessive optimism that encourages taking extreme risks and can loose contact with reality

  • Shares Stereotypes - the greater cohesiveness of a group the more its members are likely to accept distorted perceptions of outside groups or individuals that are competing against them.

  • Rationalisation- Discounting warnings by finding intellectually acceptable explanations for undesirable behaviour. Group members persuade each other that foolish and immoral decisions and actions are justifiable, sensible and virtuous

  • Belief in  inherent morality- Each of us likes to feel virtuous and worthy of approval. Believing their goals and actions are the highest ethical principles, members ignore the ethical or moral consequences if their actions

  • Self Censorship- Particularly present in groups that are strong or have members with strong personalities. Doubts, critical evaluations or deviations from the perceived group consensus are not expressed.

  • Illusions of Unanimity-Use of tactics to encourage cooperation and conformity among members. Majority view and judgments are assumed to be unanimous

  • Direct Pressure on Dissenters- Should members oppose the trends flourishing in a groupthink situation, they will be under pressure to not express arguments against the group's views

  • Mind guarding -Members protect the group and the leader from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group's cohesiveness, view, and/or decisions

Some remedies for  Groupthink

  • The leader should avoid stating preferences and expectations at the outset

  • Members should each have the role of critical evaluator

  • Inviting outside experts to join meetings on a staggered basis and encourage to challenge member's views

  • Group members should be encouraged to seek feedback on decisions outside the group

  • The leader to review decisions with trusted associated outside the group



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