Have you ever been in a group decision making process where everyone agreed with that one guy who spoke the loudest? What about your friend Sheila? Do you have a tendency to go along with what she wants regardless of your own ideas? Have you chosen a view in current affairs simply because a lot of people you know have this view? If you have ever been in a group where the main goal was to make a decision as quick and painless as possible, chances are you have been victim of groupthink.

In 1972, Janis Irving coined the term groupthink to describe the phenomenon of not wanting to “rock the boat” while in a group decision-making process. Suppose a member of the group expresses an opposing view and the group “gangs up” on them. Each member might begin to censor their own opinions as not to get penalized for a different view. Eventually, no one speaks up or presents any other alternatives and the group feels they have come to a unanimous decision. This is extreme faulty decision making. When large corporations such as Enron make costly decisions, it is often traced back to groupthink. Here’s another example of how groupthink led to tragic results…

So, what can we do to avoid groupthink? Be the devil’s advocate. Don’t allow the loud guy to monopolize the meeting. Make decisions for yourself. Don’t allow your friends to use peer pressure to influence your choices. Be an individual. Don’t choose a view simply because it’s popular. Research the topics you are interested in and become your own decision maker.

For more information about groupthink and how to avoid it, check out these videos:

GroupTHINK: The Death of Independent Thought

Sociology101: GroupThink

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