Olivier Meier, University of Paris Est – Overcoming groupthink to free decision-making – Strategies & Management

Olivier Meier, University of Paris Est – Overcoming groupthink to free decision-making – Strategies & Management
Olivier Meier, University of Paris Est – Overcoming groupthink to free decision-making – Strategies & Management

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when the desire for harmony and conformity within a group leads to irrational or dysfunctional decision-making.

Initially theorized by psychologist Irving Janis in the 1970s, groupthink is a formidable trap for teams and organizations, which can lead to costly errors of judgment.

How does this phenomenon manifest itself and what strategies can be implemented to effectively counter it?

Groupthink is characterized by several distinct symptoms, such as:

– the illusion of invulnerability,
– collective rationalization,
– belief in the moral qualities of the group,
– and the existence of stereotypes towards other social groups.

In this configuration, group members are inclined to repress divergent points of view. In effect, explicit pressure is applied to those who deviate from or challenge the established norm, creating a false sense of unanimity.

The impact of this phenomenon on the decision-making process is considerable. Teams risk making hasty choices, neglecting thorough hazard analysis, omitting valid options, and failing to develop alternative strategies.

These failures can therefore lead to dysfunctions, the loss of significant opportunities and, potentially, crises within the group.

So what are the strategies to counter this group phenomenon?

1. First of all, the expression of divergent points of view and constructive criticism should be openly encouraged to reduce social conformity. Leaders must indeed value and reward the expression of alternative opinions, even if they sometimes go against the group norm.

2. Likewise, it is important to select one or more members of the group to question certain propositions and assume the role of critical skepticin order to stimulate reflection, thus avoiding any haste.

3. It may also be helpful to split the group into independent subgroups working on the same problem. This approach can indeed help generate diverse solutions and avoid uniformity of thinking.

4. We can also use anonymous feedback methods during the processsuch as surveys or suggestion boxes, allowing group members to share their opinions without fear of reprisal.

5. Another relevant strategy may consist of bringing in experts from outside the group who can bring new perspectives, challenge the status quo and enrich the decision-making process with a different perspective.

6. Another particularly effective element is to introduce deliberate pauses before any decision-making. This can allow group members to think individually, thereby reducing the impact of social influence.

7. Finally, after each decision, a retrospective evaluation of how the decision was made should be encouraged which can help identify possible groupthink biases and learn for future decisions.

Groupthink is an insidious adversary of decision-making quality, hiding its harmful impacts behind the veil of unity and collective cohesion.

By identifying its symptoms and deploying tactics aimed at encouraging plurality of ideas, critical evaluation and autonomy in strategic choices, leaders can preserve the rigor of the decision-making process and direct their teams towards more judicious and innovative solutions. .

Combating groupthink therefore goes well beyond simple error prevention; it is a crucial step to improve team cohesion and the vitality of the organization.

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