In this show, we will discuss how groupthink kills innovation. Groupthink is thinking or making decisions as a group. This way of thinking discourages creativity or individual responsibility. A downside of groupthink is that it can create blind spots resulting from not listening to dissenting opinions. Groupthink tends to end in unintended negative consequences because everyone thinks alike and agrees with each other.
8 Symptoms of Groupthink
In 1972, Irving Janis developed the eight symptoms of groupthink. The first symptom is the illusion of invulnerability, which creates excessive optimism. This toxic optimism encourages taking extreme risks, which always has a downside.
Second symptom is collective rationalization. Members discount warnings and dismiss assumptions immediately. Inherent morality is the third symptom. Here, members ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions.
Number four is the stereotyped views of the outgroup. Here, members tend to stereotype people that are not in the group. The fifth symptom is direct pressure on dissenters, where members are pressured not to disagree with the group’s views.
Symptom six is self-censorship. Members don’t say certain things to avoid reactions from people. Number seven is the illusion of unanimity or the idea that the majority view is unanimous. In most cases, this is just an assumption. The eighth and final symptom is self-appointed mind guards. These members protect the group from information that is contradictory to the group’s cohesiveness.
Here are two examples of the negative consequences of groupthink. Swiss Air was a Swiss airline that was so financially stable. People referred to it as the flying bank. In July of 2001, the company collapsed. Right before this, they got rid of any industrial technical expertise from its governing board. The company wanted to reduce anything that threatened the cohesiveness of the board of directors. Insider groupthink took over and led the company to failure.
In 1999, fifty-four members of the Major League Baseball Umpires Association resigned in mass. The umpire did this to influence the ability to renegotiate new contracts. Ultimately, the MLB hired new umpires and decertified the entire union.
Combating Groupthink That Kills Innovation
Innovation is all about doing something new and unique and taking risks. Groupthink is all about conformity, thinking the same, and being in alignment. If you fall into this trap, it turns into an innovation antibody, and innovation antibodies block new ideas.
There are several ways to combat groupthink. Firstly, you can formalize the questioning process. A group should have a process that gives questioning permission to those within the group. There should also be people from outside the group challenging it.
Another way to fight groupthink is to institute anonymity. Make people more comfortable giving their opinion. Bring in outsiders such as consultants and encourage them to point out problems. Lastly, allow extra time so things can be questioned and challenged.
To know more about how groupthink kills innovation, listen to this week's show: Groupthink Kills Innovation.