Group Think

Thinking and working as a group, as a close team is good, but too much of it has its drawbacks.

When a team becomes enamored of consensus and creates a working environment where disagreement is discouraged, GroupThink emerges. Members start agreeing with everything out of habit. The group has formed an identity and a value system and members submerge their thoughts to the group. We risk losing valuable opportunities and chances.

Could this be one of the reasons why only a very small number of bright ideas, and always the brightest, make it through a ParadigmShift?

A related problem is TheAbileneParadox

-- MartineDevos

GroupThink is not particular to teams however. It happens in just about any social context (even Wiki). Ideas create a natural affinity among people. People with common ideas will group together. Those who do not share those common ideas will move on. Fritz Perls in his Gestalt Therapy (a method of psychotherapy based on Gestalt Psychology) said that people tend to make distinctions at a very root level between "that which is part of me" and "that which is not part of me." Conceptual structures like political affiliation, religion, shared cultural beliefs, etc., are felt to be extension of ourselves, while the structures that we do not share feel alien and we mistrust those who adhere to them. -- MichaelFeathers

Offered for your consideration: the C3 team has not converged to a GroupThink kind of way. The members have their own ideas and will push for them. What the team does have is a mutual trust that makes it easier for all ideas to be heard and honestly considered, and a shared set of values that help ideas get evaluated by all against the same priorities.

Some possible explanations, with questions: --RonJeffries

SurvivorshipBias contributes to GroupThink (see item 1 on RonJeffries list above).

GroupThink contributes to MentalInertia. --FalkBruegmann

GroupThink is most prevalent when a team is under significant external stress, especially high risk combined with unreasonable time constraints. The team feels completely isolated from anything outside of it. When the pressure is to make any decision as soon as possible, there is a significant risk of the first plausible-sounding solution being adopted without proper critical appraisal.

A few reasons that ExtremeProgramming would be resistant to GroupThink are:

Paradoxically, ExtremeProgramming suggests adopting the first plausible-sounding solution, as it can be refactored if it turns out to be wrong.


One classic example of GroupThink may be found in Irving Janis' examination of the Challenger space shuttle explosion of 28 January 1986. GroupThink can, at times, be a matter of life or death.

As a matter of communication, GroupThink can result from fear of retribution, real or perceived, for stepping out of the party line, real or perceived. It is fostered by the "true believers" of the group.

Of course, GroupThink is necessary to some degree for a goal-oriented group to function.

Interesting. I have been witness to GroupThink within a group for which GroupThink is a recognized evil. The original binding goals were independently adopted by all the members of the group, who saw in these goals the solutions to many things.

Later, operating as a group, when some policy issue would arise around some pivotal event, certain "catch phrases" already acknowledged as "good things" would be brandished as the motive behind some bizarre twist on policy implementation.

The irony was that, although later (months, even years) this same group would look back on the brief era of some crazed fad ("Oh, yeah, that was the 'take one for the team' era."), somehow they would be unable to see it when it was happening.

-- GarryHamilton


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