Group Think: Is two heads really better than one?

You know how the saying goes…

“Two heads are better than one”

… but why stop at 2? If two is good, more must surely be better! So let’s make it three heads, better yet ten! a hundred!a hundred thousand! The premise behind this logic is that each ‘head’ brings with it ideas, knowledge, and a point view that will add to the groups knowledge pool. But if you’ve ever had to sell a group an idea, or suggested an alternative method to doing something in a meeting you know this isn’t necessarily true.

Group think is a phenomenon that occurs within groups of people in which a need for conformity sometimes causes flawed and defunct decision-making outcomes. Group members tend to agree with each other without critical evaluation of situations, and to the detriment of alternative opinions, change, and outside influences.

The reasons why group think occur are numerous, ranging from ‘this is the way things are done around here’ (culture), to previous successes that then makes groups overconfident and blind to the changing world. Sometimes, it’s just good old-fashioned fear of the unknown. 

Whatever the origins of the group-think, it posses numerous dangers to an organization including Poor Decision Making, Missed Opportunities and Pursuing Non-competitive Strategies.  Group think does not allow individuals to look at the bigger picture or even any other picture, the decision of the group all. 

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The group is all

Those who cannot be ‘assimilated’ will not be heard. This then manifests in high employee turnover rates, high absenteeism, late coming and low productivity. Basically, individuals coming to work and do the bare minimum until they can move on.

The question the is then how can we reduce the influence of group-think?

Self-Awareness

Groups should be self-aware, they should be able to take stock of reality and that includes their strengths and weaknesses. If properly implemented, group-think would significantly reduce as groups would be able to acknowledge their shortcomings and better able to accept new ideas.

Leaders should speak last

My mum always had this weird rule, whenever we had to share something the person who conducted the apportioning would pick last. I guess she was trying to teach us with great [cake apportioning] power, came great responsibility. 

When leader express their view first, this usually censors everyone into conformity.They get to share the cake and have the first pick. Leaders who seek an alternative view, should encourage everyone else to speak before they do to obtain candid and genuine opinions.

Brainstorming Sessions

Permit brainstorming sessions were no idea can be rejected until the evaluation phase. This might encourage people to speak up without fear of criticism.

Reward group success

Individuals are less likely to attempt to correct flawed thinking or risk being ostracized if they have little to nothing to gain from it. However, if the success of the group is tied to their individual performance they might be a concerted effort towards ensuring group success.

Promote individuality 

During recruitment, performance appraisals, and employee training, organisations usually push their agenda. During these processes organisations basically say ‘This is our culture, these are our values, these are our goals… wanna join?’ However, this should not be done at the detriment of individuality and creativity. As opposed to looking for individuals to implement the agenda, organisations should seek individuals who grow and expand it. This cannot be achieved were group think prevalent.

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do – Steve Jobs