Entrepreneurship Productivity

Beating Groupthink to Lead an Effective Team

Evan Goodman
Written by Evan Goodman

Groupthink a psychological phenomenon that can lead people to make irrational, illogical, or impractical decisions while attempting to conform to a group. Applied to a business setting, your team may all choose to go along with the first idea proposed instead of discussing all possible options – even if subsequent ideas proposed may be more suitable. Wanting to fit in is natural for humans, but groupthink smothers communication and innovation. In the long term, the team’s ability to work efficiently, solve problems, and deliver results will slow down.

Luckily, there are ways to prevent groupthink from taking hold in your team. As a small business owner and a team leader, keep a close eye out for these three factors within your business:

A culture of fear

Above all, groupthink is brought on by a desire to conform. This desire is magnified when there are repercussions for not conforming to the group. Threats from inside and outside the group will lead your team members to arrive at a fast, easy consensus with little debate- which is not necessarily the correct or best solution. 

To prevent this, try to alleviate concerns that may be affecting you team. This may include unreasonable time pressures for projects, drastic consequences if an innovative project flops, such as demotion or even being fired.  Internal pressure in the form of ridicule, exclusion or bullying from within the individual’s team can also encourage groupthink. Encourage discussion within your team and remind them to focus on the task at hand.

Lack of an impartial leader

The team leader leads what is discussed during meetings and can actually inadvertently encourage groupthink. When the leader gives an opinion or pitches an idea, team members are quick to agree- even if they may have a better idea. They might also not want to challenge their supervisor’s idea out of respect.

The solution is to keep your thoughts and opinions to yourself until after everyone has had a chance to speak. This will facilitate honest and open discussions of the problem at hand without any bias, and you will be surprised at the amount of innovative solutions generated. You may also consider having a different team member lead the meeting on a rotating schedule.

Lack of outside input

When a group or department  works on a problem in isolation, it is easy to lose sight of the bigger, company-wide issue. The group decide on a drastic, inappropriate or irrelevant decision if they are not challenged by other teams and departments to think outside the box.

Instead, you should allow team members to discuss ideas and solutions with people outside the group. Additionally, you may want to bring an outside expert to the meetings- this will facilitate discussion without reducing the cohesiveness of your team.

Teams that engage in groupthink may appear cooperative from the outside, but are ultimately hindering their own performance. Avoiding this common issue will allow your employees to perform effectively and efficiently and come up with more creative solutions in the workplace.

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About the author

Evan Goodman

Evan Goodman

Over the past 30 years, Evan Goodman | Business Coach has founded numerous ‘start-ups’, built them into successful businesses and gone on to sell them. He has experienced and overcome most of the common challenges faced by business owners and leaders and understands the pressure and stresses that running a business can cause.

He also recognises the value and importance of getting sound advice and support when faced by these common challenges and of being prepared to openly discuss issues with a coach or mentor.

Since building up his last business into a national company, and selling it in 2009, Evan focusses on coaching SME business owners on how to become business leaders. He has a Masters of Business Coaching degree UOW; creating a unique blend of experience, expertise and coaching best practice for his clients.

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