Group Think or Collaboration?

Group Think or Collaboration?

No one marches into an implementation and aims to deliver only the absolute bare minimum. Well, maybe Larry does. Screw Larry – he’s an idiot. Well, no one except Larry aims for the lowest common denominator.

Even so, it’s deceptively easy to slip from aspirational change into ‘good-enough’ type implementations. Sometimes we even justify the slippage by calling our new target, MVP, Minimum Viable Product. However, the difference is that MVP is a target along a journey, not a watered-down, compromise end-state that failed to live up to anyone’s goals.

What’s actually happening is that we start with the idea of being collaborative and inclusive, but end with a blank billboard that appeases no one.

There is any number of reasons why this happens, but often it’s simply because the conversations and decisions that need to happen; don’t.

What is Group Think?

Groupthink is the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility.

The term ‘Groupthink’ was developed by social psychologist Irving Janis in 1972. It describes suboptimal decisions made by a group due to group social pressures. Groupthink occurs when group cohesiveness is prioritized over individual expression.

Group think typically happens in a workplace culture where employees fear having an opinion that differs from the ruling majority. In some cases, the fear is due to an employee’s own insecurities and his/her desire to fit in with the group.

What is Collaboration?

Collaboration is the action of working with someone to produce or create something. It happens when the individual is allowed to be an individual — where expression of opinions, even in opposition, is welcomed.

Collaboration creates a space for original ideas to be shared, discussed, and decided upon. Succesful collaboration fosters an ego-less environment where good ideas are elevated regardless of the source.

How to spot Group Think?

  • Insanely Bad decisions
  • Little to no opposition during discussions
  • Lack of creativity in the decisions
  • The best solutions are often overlooked
  • Lack of feedback on decisions

How to Foster Collaboration

  • Focus on the right things. Make sure that the collaborating team is focused on answering the right question or solving the right problem. Go back and review the original problem before finalizing your decision. When introducing a new team member into the team, make sure to review the problem statement with them.
  • Don’t speak; listen! Strong-willed opinion leaders are too often the cause of groupthink. During group discussions, people should devote at least 80% of their time listening and observing and just 20% speaking.
  • Encourage other perspectives. The group must adopt a mindset that strongly encourages team members to express a diversity of perspectives, especially principled dissent. However, decisions need to be made so make sure to avoid perpetual debate.
  • Don’t rely on just “some” of the information. Consult all relevant sources and share all data collected with the Group when gathering information to make a decision.
  • Divide tasks based on expertise. When dividing up duties, assign tasks to those best-qualified based on their knowledge, experience, and judgment.
  • Seek out disagreement. Use a “devil’s advocate” approach when scrutinizing each option you’re studying. When you’ve settled on one, appoint one or more team members or bring in an independent “red team” to challenge your decision.

To avoid Groupthink, the first step is to become aware of it. Next, repeatedly come back to ways to foster collaboration while keeping an eye on Groupthink warning signs.

References and Resources

An interesting post on how Groupthink Kills Collaboration

Groupthink: The Evil Twin of Collaboration

8 Steps to Avoid Groupthink

Group Think Decisions

Supporting Music

Lenny Kravitz – Are You Going to Go My Way

Linkin Park – Numb

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