But before dwelling deep into the issue it must be learned that what groupthink really is. Groupthink is a term that was used by social psychologist Irving Janis for the first time in 1972 and it is a phenomenon which “refers to a psychological phenomenon in which people strive for consensus within a group. In many cases people will set aside their own personal beliefs or adopt the opinion of the rest of the group” (Cherry, 2017). When the phenomenon of groupthink occurs, people who are opposed to the decisions made or to the overriding opinion within the group prefer to remain quite in order to keep the pace rather than disrupt the unanimity that prevails among the team members. Such behavior on the part of the project team members can be a problem for the project itself. If at the very initial stages of the project completion process wrong decisions and suggestions are not addressed then in the long run that can lead to serious problems. Hence, from this perspective, if judged, it can be seen that groupthink is a problem for the project and the project team.
There are several reasons why groupthink occurs. Sometimes it have been observed that several conditions are there to promote groupthink and whenever such conditions prevail in a team, the project team start suffering from the negative consequences of groupthink. Whenever the group is dominated by a directive leadership approach, the group members are exposed to groupthink (Expert Program Management, 2018). Group homogeneity, which is a common issue with project teams, is also a pre-condition for the development of groupthink. Moreover, where there is group isolation, there is the chance of occurrence of group isolation (Expert Program Management, 2018). Group isolation may be often experienced by project team members because in particular project the team members are not exposed outside the given information that can help the team members in striking more balance in the decision-making process. Furthermore, what I have experienced as outcomes of groupthink in the course of a project completion are that, groupthink can result in the illusions of invulnerability (Expert Program Management, 2018). In this case the “group begins to believe its own hype and starts to think it always makes the right decisions – they can do no wrong” (Expert Program Management, 2018). Moreover, rationalization of warnings is also a symptom of groupthink and I have experienced this too, in the course of participating in a project completion process. I have seen how team members, in the context of occurrence of groupthink, try to convince themselves that despite evidence of warnings, what they are consenting to is the right decision. Such consensus is also very much problematic as it poses serious challenges to the development of project completion plans in both the short- and long-run. Moreover, I have seen the emergence of acts of stereotyping in the course of prevalence of groupthink in a project team. In this respect I have witnessed how “Those who are opposed to the group are pigeonholed as heretics, non-believers,, or just plain stupid” (Expert Program Management, 2018).
Considering all the above mentioned facts it can be said that groupthink is not a good thing to be present among team members. Groupthink has to be avoided in order to ensure cohesion among group members. Avoidance of groupthink is essential to make sure that in the long-run the project team is able to accomplish the set goals and objectives without facing any major risk. There are certain strategies to keep groupthink at bay, and the primary strategy that the team leader can apply to combat groupthink is to promote debates among team members. Debates prevent groupthink and it also promotes diversity of ideas and concepts. Fostering open discussion and encouraging team members to always contribute their ideas, opinions, and thoughts is yet another way to avoid groupthink (Hartwig, 2016). Moreover, avoiding the practice of quickly criticizing other ideas and insulting team members can promote a team culture that is resistant to groupthink. Designating critical evaluators of decisions and plans can also keep groupthink at bay (Hartwig, 2016).
But it should be noted that combating groupthink in conventional teams and avoiding groupthink in virtual teams are not the same concepts. It is a bit difficult to keep away groupthink from affecting a virtual team. The functions and operations of virtual teams are sometimes different than conventional teams and that is one primary reason why it often becomes difficult to address groupthink in virtual teams. It must be noted that “Cohesion is regarded as something to strive for in virtual teams yet difficult to attain” (McAvoy & Butler, 2008). And it is in the quest of accomplishing cohesion that groupthink can ultimately be attained by virtual team members. But in dealing with virtual team members in terms of preventing groupthink, I must apply the same processes that should be applied to conventional teams. In the context of preventing groupthink from affecting virtual teams the team leadership should promote diversity of thought (Creative Huddle, 2018). Promoting debates and sharing of different ideas should also be implemented as strategies to avoid groupthink in a virtual infrastructure.
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Creative Huddle (2018). Avoid groupthink with diversity of thought. Retrieved February 16, 2018, from https://www.creativehuddle.co.uk/avoid-groupthink-with-diversity-of-thought
Expert Program Management (2018). Groupthink| Examples & Avoidance. Retrieved February 16, 2018, from https://expertprogrammanagement.com/2011/03/groupthink-examples-avoidance/
Hartwig, R.T. (2016). 9 Strategies to Avoid Groupthink. Retrieved February 16, 2018, from http://www.ryanhartwig.com/9-strategies-to-avoid-groupthink/
McAvoy, J., & Butler, T. (2008). The Desire for Cohesion in Virtual Teams: Be Careful What You Wish For. Retrieved February 16, 2018, from https://www.igi-global.com/chapter/desire-cohesion-virtual-teams/8767