Should You Fight the Status Quo? Usually No.

Should You Fight the Status Quo? Usually No. Since groupthink tends to support the status quo and is relatively unfriendly to innovation, isn’t it your duty as an employee of the company to fight it? Certainly, companies need innovation, even if they’re not very good at it (see my book: Creating the Innovation Culture). You can count on the fingers of one hand CEOs who say, “No, no—new thinking is not welcome here.” So companies need to minimize groupthink to maximize new ideas. But while it`s good for the company, is it good for you?  Not necessarily You’d hope that suggesting a really innovative idea would have your co-workers hailing you as the new Einstein. Well, might happen but equally possibly, they`ll spend the time explaining why it won`t work. But because you’re so enthusiastic, you keep pushing. If you do it long enough, you might experience an odd phenomenon. The group may see you as generating conflict by your continued persistence insistence. Groups tend not to like and even ostracize those who rock the boat and will often interpret it as a personal failing (“She’s so hard to get along with”) rather than an effort to help the group…

Can You Prevent Group Conformity? Maybe.

Can You Prevent Group Conformity? Maybe. Groupthink is a powerful but unseen force in organizations. In our example, you were wise to consider how you would be perceived by the group and it probably didn’t matter that you went along with the majority. But what if the outcome had been really important? Or if you were sure you had the right answer? How could you discourage conformity to open up the discussion? Below are ways to handle the most common groupthink. Groupthink/conformity symptom What you can do Confirmation bias. A group only considers information supporting what it has already decided is true. You can call the group on its actions. “I wonder if we should slow down a bit to be sure we consider all possibilities.  Jessica had a good point. Could you repeat it?”   Information cascade. As more people believe, the idea’s legitimacy increases and the desire for other solutions falls.[1] Again, bring the group’s attention to its behavior. “Whoa. I think Dan’s idea has great potential but Beth, you’re the expert in systems architecture. Do you think Dan’s idea will fly?”   False consensus effect. Overestimating the commonness of your beliefs and undervaluing opposing views.[2] “I don’t…

How Groupthink Can Get You

How Groupthink Can Get You In the last post, you wanted to generate out-of-the-box ideas but were shot down. You left the meeting feeling vaguely bad, perhaps because your idea never got off the ground. Perhaps, but a much more powerful force had probably doomed your idea from the start: Groupthink. What is groupthink? Groupthink is the tendency of a group to hold the same opinions and views. Sometimes that’s good. For something straightforward, it’s very helpful to coalesce quickly around the task. But this technique is primarily about efficiency—completing the task using the fewest resources in the least time. Unfortunately, organizations are addicted to groupthink and apply it indiscriminately. In our example, the group was aiming for effectiveness—the right solution—not one generated in record time with the fewest people thinking. Did you have a better idea? You may not have, but the key thing is it was never seriously considered. Maybe the Executive Committee really is looking for radical solutions or wants a way into new technology. Because nobody knew exactly what was wanted, a better approach would have been to float both ideas. Why didn’t this happen? Groupthink narrows the options Jeff, perhaps unconsciously but certainly cleverly, uses…

Dysfunctional Decision-making—Thinking Yes, Saying No or Vice Versa

Dysfunctional Decision-making—Thinking Yes, Saying No or Vice Versa Everybody wants to make good decisions but there can be situations where that’s not possible. Indeed, the way a conclusion is reached can be completely dysfunctional. Often due to a group falling prey to groupthink. Let’s work through an example. You work in a large document shredding company. The company needs a new strategic direction because businesses now post confidential documents to secure sites. The President’s note to staff asked for out-of-the-box ideas. Your chance for profile Your Director was attending these meetings but the baby came early and you`re her replacement. You have a great idea you can`t wait to table. Everybody at the meeting is more senior than you. It’s a bit daunting but also an ideal opportunity to get air time in front of managers who could promote you. The Director of Ops, Jeff, is chairing. The first dysfunctional groupthink technique Jeff: Let’s get started. Welcome, Steph. At the last meeting, we pretty much agreed to a new fleet of trucks to pick up both recycling and documents for shredding. Somebody: Yeah, the way to go. (general murmur of agreement) You speak up But you happen to be looking…

Getting Collaboration Right

Getting Collaboration Right  Your group didn’t get a report in on time and you need to figure out what caused the lack of collaboration. You want to challenge the assumption that the most important thing is getting along. Raising the issue with Megan and Jean won’t be an easy conversation but it’s necessary. Challenging the lack of collaboration YOU: So, guys, I wanted to talk about the report not going out last week. Expect avoidance Jean: But it went the Tuesday after so no harm done. YOU:  I’d like to discuss why it didn’t go on Friday. Expect sniping Megan: (undertone) Because the data weren’t there. Jean: I heard that! YOU: Let’s stick to the issue. Jean, you didn’t get the data to Megan on Wednesday. Why? Jean: I wanted to make it right. YOU: Megan needed it. Expect defensiveness Jean: Crummy research can’t go out! YOU: But what could you have done? Jean: Huh? Suggest solutions the first time YOU: Why not tell Megan you were going to be late? Jean: She knew when it didn’t arrive. Megan:  I needed a heads up. Jean: Wouldn’t have made a difference. YOU: But you two might have worked something to meet…