Which put to mind something American chemist, physicist, and Nobel Prize in Physics laureate, Ray Davis, once said, “the tribe often thinks the visionary has turned his back on them. When, in fact, the visionary has simply turned his face to the future.”
I realized this is just what happens in many cohesive groups when one individual breaks away from the group "mind" to follow a vision they have for the future of the group or when they start bringing new or fresh ideas to an established group.
The concept of groupthink was conceived in 1972 by Iriving L. Janis.
It is tendency of highly or moderately cohesive groups to seek concurrence. This leads to the following seven possible results:
1) an incomplete survey of alternatives
2) an incomplete survey of objectives
3) the failure to examine risks of preferred choice
4) the failure to reappraise initially rejected alternatives
5) poor information search
6) selective bias in processing information
7) the failure to work out contingency plans (Brandstatter, Davis, & Stocker-Kreichgauger, 1982)
When any of those seven criteria for groupthink are met, it is plausible to presume that incorrect or deviant decision-making will be the outcome.
Loyalty to the group demands that individuals to avoid bringing up controversial issues or novel solutions, this results not only in a loss of individual creativity but a loss of independent thinking. The dysfunctional group dynamics of the "in-group" produces an "illusion of invulnerability", an inflated certainty that the in-group has made the correct decision. Thus the "in-group" significantly overestimates their own decision-making abilities, and grossly underestimates the abilities of their opponents, the "out-group".
Janis listed several factors that may promote groupthink: direct pressure against argument, self-censorship of deviations from the apparent group consensus, and a shared illusion of unanimity (Brandstatter, et al, 1982).
The concurrence-seeking tendency that occurs among moderately or highly cohesive groups is of special importance. If this is a dominant tendency, members of the group will develop rationalizations that will allow them to share in the illusion of invulnerability and will display other symptoms of groupthink. The conditions put forth by Janins creating groupthink are
1) high cohesiveness
2) insulation of the group
3) lack of methodical procedures for search and appraisal
4) directive leadership
5) high stress with low degree of hope for finding better solution than one favored by leader and/or other influential members (Brandstatter, et al, 1982).
If you don't want your group to go down this path, or you fear it is going down this path already, there are things that can be done. Suggested methods of for avoiding groupthink include:
1) fostering open discussion of all alternatives
2) considering ‘worst case’ scenarios
3) creating contingency plans for failure
4) advising leaders to avoid ad-vocation of any particular plan early in discussion
5) having ideas reviewed by experts and devil’s advocates
6) breaking into several independent groups
7) re-discussing the decision after it has been made
8) making group and group members more accountable for their decision (Janis 1982; McCauley 1982; Hart 1998) (Baron & Keer, 2003)
Baron, R. S., & Kerr N. L. (2003). Group process, group decision, group action. Buckingham: Open University Press.
Brandstatter, H, Davis, J. H., & Stocker-Kreichgauer, G. (Ed.) . (1982). Group decision making. Academic Press.
Packer, D. J. (2008). Avoiding groupthink whereas weakly identified members remain silent, strongly identified members dissent about collective problems. Psychological Science.