Symptoms and Risks of Groupthink

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Symptoms and Risks of Groupthink Andrew W. Browne, Laura C. Florek, Kristin R. Grassham, Aaron S. Hanson, Brock J. Hardy, Mike D. Mangus, and Harris Martinson George Washington University Introduction Groupthink has been identified as a contributor to poor decision making in cohesive groups ranging from corporate executives to ordinary workgroups. The concept of groupthink was coined by social psychologist Irving Janis and is defined as “a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when members’ striving for unanimity overrides their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action” (Janis, 1972). Groupthink creates situations where no voiced disagreement is inferred to mean consensus among the group, when in fact members might actually disagree (Burnette, Pollack, & Forsyth, 2011). In reality, research indicates that when people are aware that differing opinions are present in the group, they tend to incorporate those views into their own thinking (Covert, 2009). Understanding the symptoms of groupthink is essential for every businessperson in order to eliminate the negative effects it has on corporations. The three prominent symptoms that remain critical to interpreting groupthink are stereotyping of outsiders, illusions of invulnerability, and collective rationalization. The first, stereotyping of outsiders, illustrates the damage bias can cause and how stereotypes stifle creativity. Secondly, illusions of invulnerability are exposed when extreme confidence hinders decision makers from making rational decisions. Finally, collective rationalization occurs when a group discounts critical information in order to support their current decision. Groupthink continues to plague groups today, yet vigilance and understanding of the major symptoms will promote better strategic decision

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