Groupthink & Its 7 Dwarfs

Does ganging up break you more than build you?

Groupthink comes at a cost. What’s right is sacrificed at the altar of conformity. Groupthink is a limits growth, innovation or alternative opportunities.

Groupthink & Its 7 Dwarfs

According to businessdictionary.com, groupthink is the tendency of the members of a group to yield to the desire for consensus or unanimity at the cost of considering alternative courses of action. Groupthink is said to be the reason why intelligent and knowledgeable people make disastrous decisions.

Some twenty men found themselves in a fix. There was political unrest in their country. People were tired of a one-party rule and were yearning for democracy. As is the case during such transitions, street demonstrations easily shifted into confrontations with the riot police.

These men bumped into a police patrol. Suddenly, they did an about-turn and ran off as fast as their legs would carry them. As they rounded a street corner, they nearly ran over this teen-aged young man. His instinct was to join them and run!

However, he paused and asked, “Why am I running and where to?” His youthful bravado was tested when he turned at the street corner. Walking towards him were ten anti-riot policemen! Their shields and batons didn’t look welcoming at all.

It dawned on him that he couldn’t outrun them. He had nowhere to go but walk on. But something about their demeanor enabled him to walk past the police. Laughter had engulfed them because of as to how fast the other men had ran off.

All of us are not always smarter than one of us, leaders need to distinguish between the wisdom of crowds and the madness of crowds.” ~Paul Gibbons

Groupthink build its rhythm around seven key pitfalls. They are pointers why leadership becomes stifled in an environment where groupthink thrives.

  1. Invulnerability – This is an assumption that safety lies in numbers. It’s an illusion that more danger lurks outside the group’s realm of consensus. However, the contrary holds true. Leadership requires embracing growth opportunities. Note that these may be divergent of a group’s current mindset.
  2. Group morality – If you can’t beat them, join them! Does this sound familiar? Two wrongs don’t make a right. This misconception promotes a culture of mediocrity. And no one is accountable to or held accountable for their actions or behavior.
  3. Rationalization – One classic characteristic of groupthink is to explain or justify behavior. Someone may hide behind company policy to delay or frustrate a process. A common phrase where groupthink abounds is: “But we have always done it this way.”
  4. Stereotyping – Groupthink widely holds an oversimplified attitude towards something or someone. In a stricter sense, it promotes a gang mentality. Different thought, behavior or action is met with the question such as: “Why are you trying to make us look bad?”
  5. Self-censorship – To exercise or control what one is doing or saying is healthy. However, when it’s driven by a fear of criticism, it sets forth a dangerous precedents. It results in people under-performing and never reaching their full potential.
  6. Mind guards – Like blinkers on a horse, groupthink limits ones perspective. They are constrained to only think within a box. In this case, it becomes conformity to the norm.
  7. Uniformity – Groupthink promotes a false sense of oneness. It conforms well to the one-size-fits-all school of thought. When conflict or divergent views come up, the group always resorts to what the majority perceives as true or right.

Groupthink is a leader’s Achilles heel. It provides for a chink in an otherwise strong armor. This isn’t to downplay that leaders exist in a group, team or community.

However, great leaders can be distinguished by their ability to think and act independent of the group.

Q: How has groupthink affected you, your work or relationships? Have your say by clicking here.

photo: negativespace.co

Certified Professional Coach, Communication Specialist & Author

I help motivated but overwhelmed individuals and organizations regain their purpose to lead so they can focus on what matters most to build a transformational legacy.

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  • Sandra Allen Lovelace

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