Why Do Smart, Well-Meaning Teams Make Bad Decisions? Groupthink

NLI Groupthink master class

Authored by

NLI Staff
Groupthink is what happens when team members stop thinking independently, don't speak up, and race toward consensus. But leaders can still avoid it.

Ever since 1971, the world has had a term to describe what happens when team members stop thinking for themselves, and start putting their faith in the collective.

That term is “groupthink.”

Groupthink existed well before 1971, of course. Anytime a band of humans has shared ideas to arrive at a decision or complete a project, they’ve likely fallen victim to (or risked falling victim to) groupthink. It’s what causes smart, well-meaning teams to make fantastically poor decisions.

The NeuroLeadership Institute has spent a great deal of time studying groupthink, given how much of today’s work rests upon effective collaboration.

When leaders create the conditions for groupthink, they risk project-specific efficiency in the short term and organizational health in the long term. But when leaders embrace the science that can help them avoid groupthink, they sit well-poised to make smarter, more effective decisions at all levels.

It’s in that spirit that NLI has synthesized the most cutting-edge groupthink research, and combined it with compelling anecdotes from history and practical next steps for today’s leaders, to produce a white paper entitled “The Business Case: How Diversity Defeats Groupthink.”

Over the next seven weeks, NLI will pull insights from the report and showcase them via Groupthink: The Master Class, the third “Master Class” series featured on the Your Brain at Work blog. (Check out previous Master Class series on growth mindset and culture change.)

Table of contents:

Week 2: Every Meeting Starts With an Unstated Goal — and It Leads to Bad Decisions

Week 3: How JFK Inspired the Term ‘Groupthink’

Week 4: 3 Ways to Know if You’re Being Doomed by Groupthink

Week 5: How Quiet Voices Help Defeat Groupthink

Week 6: Groupthink: Origins of a Word

Expect illuminating anecdotes on the perils of groupthink, helpful tips on spotting groupthink in your own teams, and fresh insights into the power of diversity to prevent groupthink from ever taking shape.

Groupthink is what happens when people rush to consensus. “The Business Case: How Diversity Defeats Groupthink” helps leaders see the benefits of taking a more intentional approach to decision-making.

This article is the first installment in NLI’s new series, Groupthink: The Master Class, a 6-week campaign to help leaders understand the science behind identifying — and eliminating — groupthink.

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