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…

Letting Your Own Needs Interfere With Your Management Responsibilities

Letting Your Own Needs Interfere With Your Management Responsibilities You, of course, never do this. You are totally objective and above all such pettiness. Un-huh. And when you get over yourself, you can be welcomed back into the human race. In the workplace, companies demand everyone make decisions based on what’s good for the company and not themselves. You’re a team player if you do and a selfish, ambitious, and self-serving person if you don’t. So, it’s natural to present yourself as the company wants you to be. But your own needs can get in the way Unfortunately, companies aren’t entirely wrong (even though they are entirely self-serving) in their view. Enterprises generally work better if people think of the bigger picture rather than of their own advantage. Which still doesn’t take away from the very human need to try to get what is best for us (i.e. me) versus the balance of humanity. Everybody wants things to go their way. The issue is compounded for managers because they often have within their power to decide questions in which they have a personal stake. For example, in deciding holiday schedules, you have the final say and it turned out the…

How do I Manage to Minimize Groupthink?

How do I Manage to Minimize Groupthink? In the last post, I covered whether to deal with underground, and often incorrect, employee perceptions. I think you need to as a manager and doing so will help address one of the most pernicious undercurrents: groupthink. What is groupthink? Groupthink is one of several undercurrents of which most people are unaware but which can materially affect their careers. Specifically, groupthink is the tendency of a group to seek consensus even if it doesn’t produce the best solution. It is a major bar to innovation. In future, I’ll discuss the phenomenon in more detail but right now, I think it is sufficient to say that groupthink comes from an almost overwhelming need of most people to get along with their colleagues. This need can sometimes lead to papering over issues which should not be, or even starting to believe that you are in error because  of the group’s differing expressed views. This is what happened in the post on deciding holiday schedules. I realize that in the panoply of management responsibilities, deciding holiday schedules is right down there, but I chose that situation precisely because it is minor to show that undercurrents can…