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May 25, 2021 32 min

What is Groupthink?

In this show, we will discuss how groupthink kills innovation. Groupthink is thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility. The problem with groupthink is that it can create blind spots that are the result of not listening to dissenting opinions. Groupthink tends to end in unintended negative consequences because everyone thinks alike and agrees with each other. 

 

The Eight Symptoms of Groupthink

Let’s look at the eight symptoms of groupthink. Irving Janis developed the eight symptoms of groupthink in 1972. The first symptom is the illusion of invulnerability. It creates excessive optimism that encourages taking extreme risks, which always has a downside. Number two is a collective rationalization, where members discount warnings and don’t reconsider their assumptions. The third symptom is belief in inherent morality, where members ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions. Number four is the stereotyped views of the outgroup. This is where you stereotype people that are not in your group. The fifth symptom is direct pressure on dissenters. This is where members are pressured not to disagree with the group’s views. Number six is self-censorship, where you don’t say certain things to avoid reactions from people. Number seven is the illusion of unanimity. This is the view that the majority view is thought to be unanimous. In most cases, this is just an assumption. Number eight is self-appointed mind guards. These members protect the group from information that is contradictory to the group’s cohesiveness.

 

Examples of Groupthink

Here are two examples of the negative consequences of groupthink. Swiss Air was a Swiss airline that was so financially stable that people referred to it as the flying bank. In July of 2001, the company collapsed. Right before this, they got rid of any industrial technical expertise from its governing board. The company wanted to reduce anything that threatened the cohesiveness of the board of directors. Insider groupthink took over and led the company to failure. In 1999, fifty-four members of the Major League Baseball Umpires Association resigned in mass. The umpire did this to influence the ability to renegotiate new contracts. Ultimately, the MLB hired new umpires and decertified the entire union. 

 

Combating Groupthink That Kills Innovation

Innovation is all about doing something new and unique and taking risks. Groupthink is all about conformity, thinking the same, and being in alignment. If you fall into this trap, then it turns into an innovation antibody, and innovation antibodies block new ideas. There are several ways to combat groupthink. Firstly, you can formalize the questioning process. A group should have a process that gives questioning permission to those within the group. There should also be people from outside the group challenging it. Another way to fight groupthink is to institute anonymity. This will make people more comfortable giving their opinion. Number four is to bring in outsiders such as consultants and encourage them to point out problems. Lastly, allow extra time so things can be questioned and challenged.

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