Overcome Groupthink to Make Great Team Decisions

Posted December 29, 2015

You've probably read a million articles about how it's important to foster teamwork in the workplace, but constant collaboration can have a negative side effect - groupthink.

Groupthink occurs when consensus builds around a bad idea because people are either afraid to go against the grain and speak out; or people simply want to be part of a majority and will go along with whatever seems to be popular at the time.

Groupthink is also caused by someone in a position of authority or someone with a strong, dominating personality. People may not want to challenge this leader, and the group suddenly becomes reliant on that leader for inspiration and direction. This can be catastrophic if the dominant person leaves the group.

Whatever causes groupthink, it can be highly counterproductive when it catches on and difficult to spot. There are a few simple steps decision-makers in your organization can do to reduce groupthink and still maintain an air of collaboration.

Base collaborative decisions on a solid foundation

Before going into major decisions or policy assessments, have your team take a look on similar successful decisions or programs from the past. Figure out what worked and what did not work. This preparation will prevent your decision process from starting from scratch and allow you to enter discussions with a frame of reference.

You should also do some significant research before participating in any discussions. While in conversations, do the same type of information gathering: Include as many points of view as possible and resist dismissing any ideas outright.

Set limitations with an eye toward action

In order to avoid "paralysis by analysis," your team should set limitations with respect to the number of options to consider and the length of time for discussions. Narrow down your choices to the top two or three and debate the merits of each in a short meeting.

After a brief development period, your team should make its decision. The limitations and timeline you set should be dictated by any relevant deadlines and the overall importance of your decision.

Make sure to check with everyone involved on any final decisions that are made and invite criticism. Ultimately, everyone should walk away feeling good about the process, even if they don’t like the final decision.

The implementation and follow-up

After your team reaches its decision, implement it immediately. Delaying implementation will only allow doubts to creep in and take hold.

Implementation should be followed up with periodic assessments to determine if a course correction is necessary. Avoid falling in love with a decision when objective measures show isn't working.

Things will go wrong in business from time to time. Assessments allow us to learn about them when they do so we can make better decisions in the future. Don't ignore those assessments - take the time to complete them and learn from them.

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