We are social animals who tend to prefer harmony over conflict. This helps us get through the day at work, but it can mean we avoid problems. If your work culture is one where outsiders find it hard to speak, where problems can’t be discussed openly or where unwritten rules determine behaviour, you might be falling into Groupthink*.
Here’s a checklist of Groupthink indicators:
- Illusion of invulnerability: “this can’t fail… this must be right”
- Inherent morality of the group: “we’re right… they’re wrong/crazy”
- Self-censorship: “you can’t say that…”
- Illusion of unanimity: “everyone knows… we all think…”
- Self-appointed mind-guards: “the others don’t need to know this”
If you’re the boss, you can guard against Groupthink if you:
- Openly accept criticism (try regular Post Mortems on your decisions)
- Hold back your views at first
- Split the group to work on rival solutions (use a Red Team tactic like What If analysis)
- Bring in outside voices (see Burst your filter bubble)
- Use Devil’s Advocates to test alternative ideas.
- Use the Pre Mortem to go looking for problems in the solution you’ve chosen.
Credit: the first study of Groupthink by Irving Janis, looking at President Kennedy’s handling of the Cuban missile crisis – has been extensively discussed here.