Groupthink: a term coined by Irving L. Janis in 1972, referring to a phenomenon in which people strive for consensus within a group. Whenever you’re trying to do meaningful work with several people, this can be really dangerous.

How can you signal groupthink?

  • People being overly optimistic
  • Members of the group are ignoring possible moral problems
  • Warning signs are ignored
  • There is a feeling in the group that everyone is in agreement and everyone feels the same way
  • Pressure to conform is placed on members who pose questions and people who question arguments are seen as disloyal
  • Do you feel that your opinion is very different from the group but you don’t feel like you can share it? That could be groupthink at play

What can you do about this?

  • As a leader, avoid stating your own opinion first when assigning tasks. Give people some time to come up with their own ideas first
  • Encourage others to take the role of “devil’s advocate”
  • Invite a third party to the group to have a more objective opinion
  • It can be helpful as a leader to be absent from a group meeting to avoid overly influencing opinions

Obviously, reaching a consensus is one of the goals of meetings. Be aware of the groupthink symptoms to see if you are prone to this, both as a leader and as a participant. The goal should be the best possible consensus, not just the one you all agree on the fastest.