Archive September 2011

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GroupThink – The Virus That Brings The Mighty To Its Knees

“Groupthink” was first used in 1952 by William White in Fortune[i] magazine to describe faulty group decision-making caused by an autocratic team culture that rewards conformity and discourages disagreement.

Whether it’s a rush into a poor investment, a poorly conceived economic strategy, or the launching of war, groupthink has wreaked major collatoral damage worldwide.  Among the many high-profile disasters, the crash of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986 was a direct result of groupthinkAccording to NBC News space analyst James Oberg: “engineers who had qualms about the O-rings were bullied or bamboozled into acquiescence.”[ii]

In some cases, like the Challenger disaster, pressure to conform is observable and even openly discussed and acknowledged inside the organization.  But in most cases, groupthink overtakes healthy debate unnoticed. Most people are unaware of contributing to or being part of groupthink.  It’s like a “Trojan Horse” virus that becomes apparent only by looking back at a disastrous decision that seemed sensible at the time.

*For a more detailed discussion, read “Leveraging Connecting Style Diversity” in Connect for Success or Handbook for Early Career Success.

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