written by: Regina Woodard•edited by: Ginny Edwards•updated: 9/4/2010
Groupthink is actually a common problem within groups of people who need to collaborate together on a project. In this article, a few groupthink examples are provided to give you a better idea of what groupthink is and how to get around it and prevent it.
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Groupthink is a common problem that can beset any collaborative team or group. Below are some groupthink examples, as well methods in which to prevent it.
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What is Groupthink?
Groupthink is a term that defines what happens when members of a group (or the entire group itself) begin to make faulty decisions due to the presumed pressures that result in the collaboration of completing a project. The term was coined and developed by Professor Irving Janis, who was a research psychologist and professor at both Yale University and the University of California at Berkley.
Groupthink happens when members in group 'go with the flow', so to speak, when it comes to ideas and decisions in regards to a project that the members are working on. Signs of Groupthink are -
Collective rationalization – Members discount warnings and do not reconsider their assumptions.
Stereotyped views of out-groups – Negative views of the “enemy" make effective responses to conflict seem unnecessary.
Direct pressure on dissenters – Members are under pressure not to express arguments against any of the group’s views.
Self-censorship – Doubts and deviations from the perceived group consensus are not expressed.
Self-appointed ‘mindguards’ – Members protect the group and the leader from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group’s cohesiveness, view, and/or decisions.
Why Does Groupthink Happen?
There really isn't just one reason for groupthink to happen in your organization and may be dependent on a variety of reasons. Usually, there is an immense pressure being felt by all members of the group; perhaps they have convened just shortly before a large project. Perhaps the project offers either success or failure if not done in such a way or by such and such a time. If the length of the meeting and that of the project date is short (say only a few days or even hours it's due), that heightens not only the pressure, but the stress levels for everyone.
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The best way of stopping groupthink or even preventing it to make sure that everyone in the group is speaking and stating his or her opinion on the matter. Sometimes, the group leader may need to actively ask those shy participants what they think, making sure to convey that their opinion - whether it agrees or disagrees with the current topic - will be respected and not scoffed at.
If possible, give each member a role that will play within the group. Have someone as a facilitator or mediator, making sure that everyone is heard and their ideas have been presented; give someone the role of devil's advocate, that is to say, the person who will give counterarguments to whatever idea has been issued.
Always try to keep a positive atmosphere going, even in the most stressful of talks. If everyone feels that they are able to speak freely, can express their feelings and ideas, members will be more accepting of the open and communicative air.