What is groupthink?
Rob Melendez, MD, MBA
This term was coined by a social psychologist Irving Janis (1972). Groupthink occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgement.” Consider avoiding groupthink in your practice and while serving on committees.
When a practice experiences groupthink they can become too optimistic to the point that they take extreme risks. Individuals can also discount warnings and do not reconsider their assumptions.
Symptoms of Groupthink
- Having an illusion of invulnerability
- Rationalizing poor decisions
- Believing in the group’s morality
- Sharing stereotypes which guide the decision
- Exercising direct pressure on others
- Not expressing your true feelings
- Maintaining an illusion of unanimity
- Using mindguards to protect the group from negative information
Recommendations to avoid Groupthink:
- Use a policy-forming group which reports to the larger group
- Having leader remain impartial
- Using different policy group for different tasks
- Dividing into groups and then discuss differences
- Discussing within sub-groups and then report back
- Using outside experts
- Using a Devil’s advocate to question all the group’s ideas
- Holding a s “second-chance meeting” to offer one last opportunity to choose another course of action.
Irving, Janis. (1972). Victims of groupthink. Boston: Houghton Mifflin; Irving, Janis. (1982). Groupthink: Psychological studies of policy decisions and fiascos. 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
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