Do decisions made in teams always turn out to be the best decisions? One might ordinarily think so but beware of exceptions. One such is a phenomenon called “Groupthink” first written about by social psychologist, Irving Janis. Prof. Janis was a researcher at Yale and later at the University of California, Berkeley.

When they fall victims to groupthink, groups make faulty decisions because all the members think alike, they have a poor opinion of those who do not “belong” to their group and live in a world insulated from outside opinions.

Janis identified the symptoms of “groupthink” as being:-

  • Illusion of invulnerability- creates excessive optimism that encourages taking extreme risks.
  • Collective rationalization- group discounts warnings and do not consider their assumptions.
  • Belief in inherent morality- Members believe in the rightness of their cause and therefore ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions.
  • Stereotyped views of out-groups- Negative views of “enemy” make effective responses to conflict seem unnecessary.
  • Direct pressures on dissenters- Members are under pressure not to express arguments against any of the group’s views.
  • Self-censorship- Doubts and deviations from the perceived group consensus are not expressed.
  • Illusion of unanimity-The majority view and judgements are assumed to be unanimous.
  • Self-appointed Mindguards- Members protect the group and the leader from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group’s cohesiveness view or decisions.

One of history’s examples of groupthink was the infamous Bay of Pigs issue when John F. Kennedy was the President of the United States.

So the next time everyone in your group agrees to what you say without any discussion or questions, please don’t think the members have nothing to say. You may have created an environment for groupthink!

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