Every person has fundamental differences that separate them from the rest and make him/her unique. This uniqueness makes the person to think, act and hold opinions that are different and this is what makes them to stand out. However it is normal for a person to find himself/herself in a group, a close friendship or a social setting. In this kind of a situation, a person is bound to have conflicting opinions and views on stuff. This may make the person to conform to the group’s decisions and way of doing things. Group think is the conformation to a group’s decision and resolutions without thinking of the consequences and without analyzing the details and the reason for the outcome while ignoring the inner you that you should consult. This is not advisable though it is hailed by some because of its power to resolve conflicts and arrive at consensus. It is a good tool in some situations and a totally disastrous thing in others. Sometimes it is caused by the group togetherness and the sense of cohesiveness and conformity that is the norm and way of doing things for the group. This paper will focus on the causes of group thinking and the symptoms that one is in that trap. It will also analyze the ways of preventing group think and the critical view towards it. Sometimes the idealism of group togetherness is an illusion that shuts out the need to think straight.
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The most common reason people engage in this type of behavior is the pressures that come with trying to fit in a social grouping. This may be a friendship, a family gathering a school peer group and also at work where groups are formed to enhance productivity and promote teamwork. In all this situations there is bound to be decisions that require you to air opinions and resolve an issue. The deep inside of a person may be in total contrast of the group’s decisions. However, going against a group may be viewed as jealous and too egocentric. This causes people to shy away from their deep held opinions and by the group wave (Janis and Mann 78).
The educational and social backgrounds of the people involved in the group may be the same. Although they may be having a big difference in ideologies, the fact that they are brought up in a similar kind of setting presents them with homogeneity in terms of the way they view life. Hence their answers to questions and views on life challenges is the same or almost similar. The reason may be that they are in a cocoon that effectively shuts them out of the very important source of information and tools of analysis. For example it is always funny to find yourself in group of former high school friends who did not make to the university. The manner in which they think is sometimes backward and strangely they enjoy company due to the same ideologies and social level they share. Another person feels out of place while they are likely to engage in group thinking.
There are many pointers to a person that they are engaging in group think. Though it is not a bad thing to conform to group decisions at times, it is bad to let the group be like the remote control of your life. It should not also be base from which to make your judgments and important decisions. The main reason why it is possible to find yourself agreeing with the decisions of the group is the nature to prevent you from furthering dissenting and outrageous views. This may be deeply held beliefs that if unleashed may cause counter arguments. This restricts the person from furthering opinions to avoid that (Janis and Mann 56).
The members in particular group may involve themselves in too much labeling and stereotyping. This should be a sign to a group member that there will come a time when they will all agree on some things so as to remain a part of the group. Viewing others outside the group in a bad picture is a bad thing that borders on an issue of morality questioning. But ironically, another sign that a group is entering the common thinking arena is when they invoke morality and protection of it as the cornerstone of the group. However, cohesive people are not bound to be victims all the time but are the most vulnerable when it comes to groupthink.
It common to find certain members of a group assigns themselves the role of the leader and the mind guard in a group. They give themselves the responsibility of protecting the interests of the group and the advent of adverse information. This is a bad sign to be shunned by the members of that group because it evolves to make it detrimental to the personal opinions of the group as noted by Whyte (45).
The leader of the group should be firm and encourage members to be critical and evaluative and offer practical solutions to problems and effectively participate in the discussion. They should also be ready to air their fears and objections and also be ready to accommodate criticisms and possible likelihood of hate because of accommodating the opinions of all. The moderator or the leader should also be fair and impartial and settle on the middle ground rather than lean on one side. This environment is likely to spur the conduciveness required to air ones opinions and views.
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If it is in an organization the management should set up different groups to work on the same thing under the leadership of different people. Though this may be impractical and costly, it is encouraged so as to tap into everyone’s opinion and to foster the growth of group approaches to issues effectively. This may help to reduce and radically deal with the initial bias of members and remove other sources of possible erring such as insular thinking (Ahlfinger 32).
It is greatly important to take conflicts in organization as an integral part of outcome rather than a drawback in the quest for a decision as group. Instead of agreeing to what others conclude all the time, engage in exchange and let conflict take its course in team sessions, that is often likely to bear fruits of a better and informed decisions (Janis and Mann). If the group is made up people who have a similar personality types, it is important to have a person who introduces the different perspectives to enable them to discuss and come to the best conclusion. This person will act as the devils advocate and a moderator who ensures that decisions are not hastily arrived at. It is also important to avoid being around a not so argumentative group of people who don’t bring about differing perspectives (Cervantes et al. 56).
Group thinking pools together varied ideas and thus make arriving at a decision more informed and reliable. The different input from individuals not only forms a basis for thorough research but also creates a rich pool of information needed before a decision is made. This ensures that minimum, if any, errors are made. Further more, collective responsibility is greatly enhanced since not a single individual’s perspective is adopted independently (Schafer and Crichlow 420). This ensures that individuals are more than willing to work together as a team, digging exhaustively into the subject matter for substantial outcome to be reflected in the decision. A combined effort also makes the task at hand a lot easier as compared to individual thinking. This is because division of labor is viable since the task can be divided into sub tasks that may be thought out by different individuals independently.
When a group discussion or undertake is held well it is bound to be entertaining. This stimulates the juices of creativity and enhances togetherness and a sense of belonging in social setting. Entertainment is also very important where there is need to make a boring undertaking fun. This is especially employed in group on the ground researches and assignments. It also looks professional for people to exchanger ideas in the quest o arriving at an analytical ending. It also stimulates a lot of discussion and participation especially if the group members are not imposed but self chosen notes Schafer and Crichlow (420).
The most obvious disadvantage of group thinking is that it consumes a lot of time. It takes longer for decisions to be made under group thinking than when an individual is involved in the decision making. This is due to the fact that considerations have to be made, suggestions for as well as against taken from different individuals have to be factored in. Secondly, group thinking may be detrimental to team work especially where the input of the lesser group members is not considered or is ignored. This has the effect of demoralizing them, creating discord. Additionally, where the merits and demerits of any group thinking are not shared among members, group disintegration is likely, since some individuals may feel ‘burdened’ or short changed (Schafer and Crichlow 420)
It is also highly likely to generate discomfort in the group when members try to impose their opinions and views on others. This is because people have different personalities and their nature is quite unique and different. It is also evident that decisions reached together may end up unworkable. The group members are supposed to take responsibility of this outcome but some members do not take this initiative. This leads to discomfort of members which may lead to break up and hatred as noted by Schafer and Crichlow (419). Although this can be dealt with in some situations, it is really hard to come to a consensus in a social group because most likely there are no rules of engagement that may be there to guide them like it is the case in an organizational setting. This also manifests itself where the people working in a group are not self chosen but imposed on. Although this may stem the likelihood of redundancy in the group work it may also be a source of demoralization to the group members. There it is a huge task to balance the two and come to central balance according to Ahlfinger (32). Despite the fact that group think is closely related to mob psychology, these two terms are far off and are usually used in very different contexts. In addition, this term is usually more official than the latter.
The search for credible and enough information is always ignored by groups as they strive to fit in the normal way of doing things and hold their group to high esteem and ignore the otherwise useful data areas or rival teams. This superficial nature also makes the group to fail to work on crucial parts in decision making such as contingency plans, how to implement and the worst and best case scenarios. That is always risky and may lead to a failed undertaking as noted by Ahlfinger (32).
Group thinking is hailed since it encourages everyone’s participation and it helps to arrive at an informed decision more often than not. This is especially if the people taking part are involving themselves in the discussion. Many studies have been conducted like the one conducted by Janis and Mann (1997) to ascertain the need of the grouping in work. One such study was conducted on government groups in the US and it thoroughly looked at the aspects that are part of group thinking. Conclusions drawn that suggested it was two pronged with pros and cons were later disputed by other analysts and it has become tug of war in terms of the critics and proponents. There seems to be no conclusive end to the discussion (Ahlfinger 32).
The argument for group thinking also is that it enables individuals to learn from each other and add value to them. Although it also claimed that it wastes time, it enables people to be open-minded and accommodative of the nature and ideologies of others. The perceived time wastage is good because an individual may make a decision that is haste and immediately taken up only to be detrimental in its application. Therefore it should be encouraged in organizations and companies especially if they are undertaking a new field and want to be prepared. Every employee is worth contributing and offering opinion on the same. However it’s worth noting that groupthink signs discussed and furthered by the researchers may be misread leading to wrong conclusions.
Companies are in constant requirement of creative and informed minds to help them spur growth and drive profits and customer bases. As all this is done whether in the business, politics or any other science, it is always a prerogative to make a decision at some point. This should be the point where groups should be encouraged so as to arrive to an informed decision when finding conclusions. Group thinking has its bright and dark side. Though it is unprofessional to ignore the dark side, it is important to deal with it productively so as to get the best from their inclusion in organizations and day today social lives (Whyte 43). Members of a group should watch out for the disadvantages that come with association and or not with a particular group. They are advised to look for maximum gains and shy away from the members whose aim to sabotage the group or its cause. The idea of groupthink also faces the risk of being labeled a generalization if it is invoked every time people arrive at a decision as group as suggested by Cervantes et al. (56).
Ahlfinger, Richardson. Testing the groupthink model: effects of promotional leadership and conformity predisposition. Social Behavior and Personality (2001): 31-42.
Cervantes, Mario et al. The brain drain: Old myths, new realities. Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry. Published: (2002): 34-59.
Janis, Ivan & Mann, Lewis. Decision Making: A Psychological Analysis of Conflict, Choice, and Commitment. New York: Free Press, 1977.
Schafer, Michael & Crichlow, Stephen. Antecedents of groupthink: a quantitative study. The Journal of Conflict Resolution 40.3 (1996): 415–435.
Whyte, George. Groupthink reconsidered. The Academy of Management Review. 14.1 (1989): 40–56.
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