Making decisions as a team comes naturally in the workplace, but this process is more complex than it seems. When people discuss a solution, there’s always the risk of them falling prey to groupthink, defined as the urge to drown out dissent and conform to what others (especially the leader) think.
Groupthink results in flawed analyses which in turn leads to disastrous results. This is not an overstatement; for example, one of the most famous cases of groupthink is the ill-conceived Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, one of the biggest U.S. foreign policy fiascoes of all time.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to avoid groupthink. Whether you prefer to discuss things in person or via video meetings, these guidelines will help you make better group decisions.
Encouraging dissent is the most important measure to improve group decision-making. In most cases, groupthink occurs when members of a team fear disagreeing with the leader. So if you are the leader of your team, it may be a good idea to step back from time to time to allow other members of the team to discuss possible solutions. These are some ideas to encourage dissent in your team:
- Ask openly for solutions
- Incentivize candor
- Avoid a domineering leadership style
- When discussing a problem, ask a team member to play the role of “Devil’s advocate”
- When faced with dissent, stop and think before reacting
- Develop empathy to understand other people’s views
Look Out for This Red Flag
There is a mental red flag that almost always signals that groupthink is taking place. That red flag is self-censorship, or the tendency of individuals to avoid expressing ideas that don’t conform with the views that the group has embraced.
Whenever you catch yourself or a member of your team self-censoring, it’s time to take stock of the situation and admit that groupthink may be occurring. If you act on time, you will be able to correct the course before mental conformity becomes the norm in your organization.
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