One reason groups may fare poorly on complex tasks lies in the dynamics of group interaction (Greenberg, 2005). More specifically, when members of a group develop a very strong group spirit – high levels of cohesiveness – they sometimes become so concerned about not disrupting the like-mindedness of the group that they may be reluctant to challenge the group’s decisions. When this happens, group members tend to isolate themselves from outside information, and the process of critical thinking deteriorates. This phenomenon is referred to as groupthink (Greenberg, 2005).
The suggestions outlined here have been shown to be effective when it comes to avoiding the critical problem of groupthink (Greenberg, 2005).
– Use subgroups: Because the decision made by any one group may be the result of groupthink, basing decisions on the recommendations of two or more subgroups is a useful check. If the different groups disagree, a discussion of their difference is likely to raise important issues. However, if the two groups agree, you can be relatively confident that their conclusions are not the result of group think.
– Admit shortcomings: When groupthink occurs, group members feel very confident that they are doing the right think. Such feelings discourage people from considering opposing information. However, if group members acknowledge some of the flaws and limitations of their decisions, they may be more open to corrective influences. This may help avoid the illusion of perfection that contributes to groupthink.
– Hold second-chance meetings: As people get tired of working on problems, they may hastily reach agreement on a solution. Before implementing a decision, hold sessions in which group members are asked to express any doubts and to propose any new ideas they may have (known as second-chance meetings). Second-chance meetings can be useful devices for deciding if a solution still seems good even after “sleeping on it.”
– Promote open inquiry: Remember, groupthink arises in response to group members’ reluctance to “rock the boat.” Group leaders should encourage members to be skeptical of all solutions and to avoid reaching premature agreements. It sometimes helps to play the role of devil’s advocate, that is, to intentionally find fault with a proposed solution. Many executives have found that raising a nonthreatening question to force both side of an issue can be very helpful way to improve the quality of decisions.
Greenberg, J. (2005). Managing behavior in organizations. Pearson Prentice Hall.