Are you at risk of groupthink?

One diversity advisor says the risk of poor decision making is higher when organizations don’t value varied viewpoints.

Are you at risk of groupthink?
Organizations may be putting themselves at the mercy of a psychological phenomenon if they fail to develop diverse teams – that’s the warning one industry expert has made, after emphasizing the risks of groupthink.

“Groupthink occurs when a group values harmony and coherence over accurate analysis and critical evaluation,” explains diversity manager Fezeela Raza.

“It causes individual members of the group to unquestioningly follow the word of the leader, who is usually strong and persuasive and it strongly discourages any disagreement with the consensus,” she adds.

Raza, who works for the Diversity Works New Zealand (formerly the Equal Employment Opportunities Trust), says some examples of historical groupthink could include the invasion of Cuba during the Cold War and the explosion of the space shuttle, Challenger.

So if some of the best minds in history were still no match for groupthink – how can Kiwi organisations home to overcome it?

“In our modern day organisational context, we often focus on minimising groupthink by having more gender, race and other such inherent forms of diversity represented on boards and leadership teams,” reveals Auckland-based Raza.

“An even more critical factor to avoid groupthink is to ensure that diversity of perspective and diversity of thought are present in any team,” she adds.

Raza stresses that leaders play a critical role in ensuring diverse perspectives.

“Sometimes, the best thing a leader can do to prevent Groupthink is to take a step back from his or her team, and allow the group to reach its own independent consensus before making a final decision,” she suggests.

“Leaders can also be helpful by encouraging the members of the group to speak their minds openly so that different perspectives are discussed and debated.”

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