When everyone thinks the same, it may be that nobody’s thinking at all.
Groupthink describes situations where members form quick opinions that match those of their group.
This occurs most often when ideas are conceived by a respected, charismatic, or persuasive leader. Group members are prone to avoid disagreements and stifle their own views for fear of exclusion by the leader, and by the other members. Ideas that are not in line with group consensus cease to be seen as valuable.
Groupthink represents the flip side of diversity.
Irving Janis, a prolific commentator on the subject, defined four characteristics of groupthink:
1. Directive and promotional leadership
2. Cohesiveness of the group
3. Insulation of the group from the outside
4. Lack of methodical decision-making
Groupthink focuses on the failures of others to validate the successes of the group.
This promotes an ‘us against them’ viewpoint rather than an ‘us against the problem’ perspective.
As a result, much of what is important in decision-making becomes distorted or even side-lined, in favour of blindly promoting the group as ‘right’.
Contributions and suggestions from outside are not considered because they are from the outside, so interaction decreases and key opportunities are missed.
The knock-on effect is the negative impact on important aspects of productivity. Motivation, focus, enthusiasm and team spirit are reduced, and roles become unclear.
The consequences of groupthink become secondary causes of conflict.
Every conflict we face in life is rich with positive and negative potential. It can be a source of inspiration, enlightenment, learning, transformation, and growth-or rage, fear, shame, entrapment, and resistance. The choice is not up to our opponents, but to us, and our willingness to face and work through them ~ Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith.