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Groupthink in teams can mean missed opportunities

Is your team too polite?
Blog 163 Groupthink

Teams that have built trust and connection can be at risk of being ineffectual. ‘Groupthink’ is when a collective comes together to reach a decision or approach but lacks critical reasoning or robust conversation. It can be simpler when you’re in a unified team to be polite and hear everybody’s view rather than challenge the status quo. We can forget that ‘managed conflict’ is valuable when done with respect. In fact, healthy tension is conducive to building high-performing teams.

The ability to think innovatively can make the difference between failing and achieving. Having ‘diversity of thought’ is an asset in business, but this takes deliberate planning. Where groupthink is strong, opportunities can be missed, and potential may not be leveraged.

By the time we reach adulthood, our brain pathways have become ‘hardwired’. We become accustomed to, and protective of how things ‘are’, and we subconsciously look for evidence that what we’ve learnt is true and the best way forward.

Encouraging diverse thinking within your teams could be your business’ superpower. When you pay attention to ‘current thinking’, you create an opportunity to encourage new ideas.

Here are some useful questions to explore:

  • How effectively and quickly can your team change their mind and flex their thinking?
  • When was the last time your team had a brand-new thought about your business, clients or products/services?
  • Can you remember a time when someone in your team asked a question nobody knew the answer to?

Businesses that have the capacity to ‘think differently’ are often more resilient and tend to attract leaders who are more innovative. They’re more agile when a crisis hits, and their people have developed the skills to look for solutions. Today’s business environment is extremely competitive and challenging. We’ve never had access to more information and technology than we have now, but it’s the brainpower that exists within teams that needs to be nurtured and developed. Human capital is your business’ greatest asset!

Here are 10 strategies for avoiding groupthink:

  1. Encourage different views, ideas and solutions.
  2. Ask questions, and then ask more questions.
  3. Create a team culture that rewards new ways of thinking and is comfortable with silence.
  4. Collaborate in a way that is robust, rather than polite.
  5. Make meeting agendas dynamic and engage a variety of processes.
  6. Have unstructured meeting times to be creative; bounce ideas without filtering them.
  7. Seek out experts from different industries to expand the team’s perspective.
  8. Make imagination more important than logic (sometimes).
  9. Identify who in your team is a lateral thinker and give them permission and support to present their ideas.
  10. Empower leaders when to role model, when to add to the conversation and when to be quiet!

If you’re keen to explore the topic further, in this TED Talk neuroscientist Mariano Sigman shares some of his research and insights into how groups interact to reach decisions. There are some great ideas here to help teams start having more robust conversations.

– The Coach Place Global

Image by @arlington_research

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