Concurrence seeking is a natural tendency that we all, as human beings seek out. Let’s face it, who really wants to be seen as the lone wolf speaking out against what appears to be the ‘collective decision’ of our business team or group of friends? Nevertheless, research on groupthink suggests that not having independent critical voices in the group can hinder the group’s ability to make quality decisions. As facilitators, we want our teams or groups to avoid falling into this abyss that offers little chance for them to make effective, rational decisions based on solid evidence and transparency.
The interesting thing about groupthink is that it tends to occur in a vacuum where explicit rules of engagement or norms have never really been defined but only ‘imagined’. To avoid this there are some simple steps we need to take that include but are not limited to:
1. Presenting and discussing the notion of ‘groupthink’ with the team. This could be followed by asking questions like “What could groupthink look like on a team? Is it possible that at times we might or could demonstrate groupthink? Is it important for us to minimize the possibility of us falling into this rut? What actions could we do to proactively avoid groupthink, should we fall into it?”
2. If the group has difficulty coming up with actions then conduct a norm setting discussion where you’ll ask these questions:
a) “What are some unspoken assumptions that we hold onto as a group and may negatively impact our ability to make good decisions?”
b) Ask the group “Is it possible that some of these assumptions might limit this team’s ability to make really good decisions that are well thought out and based on good sound data?
c) If the group agrees that their assumptions may limit their ability to engage in good decision-making, then ask them “What rules or principles do we want to put in place that will essentially guide our decision-making discussions so that individual ideas are heard and clarified even when they appear to go against our group assumptions?”
d) Conduct a large group debrief by having one person per pair report out their top idea. Ensure no ideas are critiqued or eliminated at this point
e) Once the group has concluded the sharing ask them, “Out of all of these ideas, which ones appear to be quick to do and has the best chance of eliminating the possibility of groupthink?”
During the ‘forming’ stage of teams, the development of guidelines or norms for avoiding groupthink are critical for minimizing poor decision-making. Even if the team has formed, the above process is helpful in retuning the team and ensuring they’re all thinking of how to improve their decision-making ability.
Do you have a unique meeting challenge not covered by one of our blog posts? We’re always looking for different dilemmas to discuss in our articles!