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I have always hated working in groups.

There were always those that didn’t care, those that just agreed and then there was me - the one who got stuck doing everything.

But, I digress.

I recently read Jonah SachsStory Wars, and learned all about the groupthink theory. In the final chapter “Living the Truth,” Sachs discusses the term, which was originally coined by Irving Janis in 1972, and its significance when working in groups. Not only can groupthink be counterproductive but it can also hinder the decision making process for a group or business.

So, just like that, there I was reliving my dreaded days of college and group projects --but it got me thinking.

Whether at work, in a classroom or somewhere else -- are we as professional communicators becoming victims of groupthink or are we challenging ourselves and our teams to think critically to allow for better group performance and decision making?

What I realized was that the problem with groups lies with those individuals in them. To be successful, responsibility must be shared and requires individual contributions by all group members -- not a consensus. Groupthink is like a cold -- there are things that can be done to help prevent it and keep it away.

So, today’s tip is all about avoiding the groupthink trap.

  • Diversify yourselves. We all come from different  places, backgrounds and bring different experiences to the teams we are part of. Instead of clinging to those with similar beliefs and views as your own- be open to other insight, feedback and ideas to enhance the quality and impartialness of a decision.
  • Think for yourself. When groups experience pressure from their group members to conform it can cause groupthink. Encourage group collaboration and critical thinking from all members both in a group setting and anonymously to ensure everyone’s opinions are heard.
  • Play Devil’s Advocate. Invite a group member to look at the other side of the picture and play devil’s advocate.  This will help group members to think critically and discuss alternatives of a proposed decision instead of maintaining a status quo.
  • Get an outsider’s perspective. Incorporate external viewpoints into the discussion before making decisions in groups. Having the additional perspective can help groups consider alternatives, examine thought processes, challenge assumptions and be open to new ideas.



Katie Snyder
Katie Snyder
A former HMA Public Relations employee.

1 Comment

  1. Dianne Price says:

    Hi Katie!

    Your post surely resonated with me. Years ago, I wondered about my own disappointments with team-think, so I read this very useful book: No More Teams!: Mastering the Dynamics of Creative Collaboration. I learned so much more from Margaret Wheatley’s wisdom on working with groups and stimulating productive conversation…

    The other disappointment was the whole experience around “the loudest voice” wins. Quiet people have a lot to offer, but a good facilitator needs to draw those folks out. The Introvert Advantage provides great insight on the richness to be mined from the quiet folks.

    Thanks for sharing great tips about the “groupthink trap!”

    Dianne Price, APR

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