Avoiding Groupthink

Groupthink is a term coined by Irving Janis in 1972.  It occurs when a group of individuals make faulty decisions in an effort to reach a consensus while avoiding conflict.

While there have been examples in history of groupthink with extreme consequences, groupthink also happens often on a smaller scale – like in your group projects or student organizations.

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Groups that fall into this trap are usually from similar backgrounds and separate themselves from outside opinions.  On top of that, they almost always do not have a clear decision making process.  To combat groupthink, Janis offers these tips when working in groups:

  • Assign each member the role of “critical evaluator.”
  • Avoid expressing opinions when assigning tasks to a group.
  • Set up several independent groups, working on the same problem.
  • Examine all effective alternatives.
  • Discuss the group’s ideas with trusted people outside of the group.
  • Invite outside experts into meetings.
  • Make a group member the Devil’s advocate.

Have you ever fallen into groupthink with your group?  Tell us about it in the comments.

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