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GroupThink. Embracing the Power of the Group. Elaine Seat, PhD, PE. What is GroupThink?. A failure in group decision making where a highly cohesive group only considers limited options and arrives at a faulty decision even though other information was available.

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groupthink

GroupThink

Embracing the Powerof the Group

Elaine Seat, PhD, PE

what is groupthink
What is GroupThink?
  • A failure in group decision making where a highly cohesive group only considers limited options and arrives at a faulty decision even though other information was available.
  • A flawed decision making process
groupthink dynamics
Groupthink Dynamics
  • Happens when group focus shifts from objectively evaluating decisions to maintaining the group
  • The group moves from prove why we should do this TO why we shouldn’t do this
groupthink the bottom line
Groupthink – The bottom line

It’s not group cohesion, but the desire to maintain the group at all costs

Procedures designed to limit group discussion also limit quality of decision

classic examples of groupthink
Classic Examples of Groupthink
  • Challenger Space Shuttle disaster
  • Columbia Space Shuttle disaster
  • 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion
  • Wiretapping the Watergate Hotel
  • Beech-Nut and lower quality apple juice
  • 1990’s Salomon Bros Treasury scandal
  • Loma Prieta Earthquake structural failure
loma prieta earthquake oct 87
Loma Prieta Earthquake – Oct ’87

Santa Cruz City Council delay in initiating action to mitigate earthquake damage:

300 business with over $100 Million in sales; $1M in sales taxes; 2000 jobs

45 buildings and 2/3 of businesses destroyed

5 dead; 10,000 homeless; over $1Billion in property damage

symptoms of groupthink 1
Symptoms of Groupthink (1)
  • An illusion of invulnerability where the group overestimates their expertise and becomes overly optimistic
  • The stress of a perceived threat –time pressure to make a decision; attack on the group’s image
  • Collective rationalization of some facts and opinions while discounting alternatives
  • Confidence in the inherent morality of the group's position, even in defiance of prevailing ethics or laws
symptoms of groupthink 2
Symptoms of Groupthink (2)
  • Derogatory and stereotypical descriptions of dissenters to discount those who disagree
  • Pressured to conform by the group majority
  • Censor of individual’s own differing opinions as the group appears to have consensus. Silence is taken as approval
  • A false perception of unanimity based on over-emphasis of points of agreement and under-emphasis of differences
  • Self-appointed mindguards protect the group from adverse information
leadership groupthink 1
Leadership & Groupthink (1)
  • Time – accurately assess time constraints to prevent a rush to judgment
  • Avoid giving the Leader’s Preferred Solution before the group has had dialogue
    • Use communication skills for drawing people out.
    • Reflecting emotion as well as content is crucial.
leadership groupthink 2
Leadership & Groupthink (2)
  • Openly discuss the group’s decision-making processes, leader role, and desired input from members
  • Legitimize and promote conflict
  • Delay expressing an opinion until all other members have expressed their ideas
  • Encourage external interaction