Group Think or Collaboration?
No one marches into an implementation and aims to deliver only the 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, compromised end-state that failed to live up to anyone’s goals.
We start with the idea of being collaborative and inclusive but end with a blank billboard that appeases no one.
There are many 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.
Social psychologist Irving Janis developed the term ‘Groupthink’ 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.
Groupthink typically happens in a workplace where employees fear having an opinion that differs from the ruling majority. In some cases, the fear is due to an employee’s insecurities and 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 sharing, discussing, and deciding upon original ideas. In addition, successful 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. Ensure 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, check 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 to listening and observing and just 20% to speaking.
- Encourage other perspectives. The Group must adopt a mindset that encourages team members to express diverse views and incredibly principled dissent. However, decisions need to be made to avoid perpetual debate.
- Don’t rely on just “some” of the information. Instead, 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 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. Then, 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
This an interesting post on how Groupthink Kills Collaboration
Groupthink: The Evil Twin of Collaboration
Are You Going to Go My Way by Lenny Kravitz