Understanding the Evils and Dangers of Group think

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Group-think is a condition where a cohesive group of people come up with poorly considered courses of action and as a result make bad choices. A unit of people which have become afflicted with group-think are typically a group that tends to know one another well, is cohesive, friendly with one another and tight-knit.

This phenomenon often occurs when people have worked closely together for long periods of time. Over the course of time they develop a "like" manner in rationalization and thinking. Unfortunately this can lead to bad decisions because of the complacent nature that emerges in the affected group.

Here are some scenarios of how group-think can emerge in an organizational setting:

*People within the group may be afraid to "rock the boat".
*Individuals are fearful of offending colleagues.
*Many individuals have become complacent within the group setting.
*People may have made some excellent decisions in the past and are over-confident that they have sound solutions and continue to use them even though circumstances have changed and these past solutions are no longer effective.

When new circumstances arise groups affected by group-think may have a tendency to think within the box, and do not take the opportunity to explore the diverse options located on the outside of that box. These groups are inclined to ignore alternatives and react negatively to the ideas of other people not a part of the group.

Their optimism and belief they are correct in judgment often leads to a spiraling downfall. Many documented historical events have been attributed to group-think. A few examples of group think are some of President Johnson and his administration's decisions made during the Vietnam War, NASA's decision to launch the Challenger when it was known there was something wrong with one of the one of the rings, and even President Bush and his administration have been questioned as being affected by group-think.

These are just a few examples, but studies have shown many historical events which perhaps were comprised of situations where people were affected by group-think. The effects of group-think can be vast and serious.

Group-think is a condition that can manifest and be difficult to break. While breaking group-think can pose some challenges, it is not impossible. There are many strategies to deter the tendencies to avoid the pit-falls of group-think. Utilizing these strategies may help pull the group into a clearer, more refined and diverse way of thinking.

Here are a few:

*In group setting situations, the group should appoint an outside person to challenge the group into considering diversity in mind-set.
*Appoint a member to play devil's advocate to help steer the group into exploring alternative ideas.
*Select a leader to try and keep an unbiased focus on the issue.
*Encourage members to think critically and unbiased.
*Promote willingness to express doubts in the decision making process.
*The organization should set up independent evaluation groups.

One can only wonder how many unethical or flat out bad decisions are made daily by governments and businesses afflicted by group-think. These poorly made choices affect not only the organization, but the people surrounding it that are impacted by bad organizational choices.

In any organizational type setting it is important to recognize the signs of group-think and make an effort to diversify the team. Businesses who can effectively follow through on strategies to prevent the dangers of group-think have a higher ability to prevent group-think from impairing an otherwise sound decision making process.

More about this author: Leigh Goessl

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