Most people prefer peace. They like harmony. But in a team meeting setting, where decisions have real consequences, the desire for peace and harmony can work against the team’s ability to find and make the best decision. Groupthink occurs when the desire for peace and harmony limit the examination of ideas. Disagreements are masked with agreeableness.
And, sometimes, the best decision goes unspoken.
Leaders should work to avoid groupthink. Here are six ways to stop groupthink:
- If you are the leader, postpone your thoughts. Withhold your opinion at the beginning of the discussion. If you state your position too early, it will likely send the conversation in trajectory that will land somewhere around that position. And don’t state any position in a definitive manner. Your confidence can derail the confidence of others, creating a fear of sharing their ideas.
- Appoint a contrarian. Give someone the role of chief questioner of ideas. Since the group knows this is their role, they won’t be offended when their ideas are pushed around by this person. More importantly, it creates an environment of examination, where everyone feels more confortable with having his or her idea questioned and with questioning another’s idea.
- Encourage questioning. From the start, the leader should encourage the examination of everyone’s ideas. The leaders should do at least two things to make sure this happens—(1.) At the beginning, tell the group it is expected of them, and (2.) when differing opinions are stated, verbally celebrate it.
- Go offsite. A different meeting environment can foster creative thoughts. It breaks the routine. It also communicates to the group that this particular meeting is different from the rest.
- Bring in an outsider. Maybe it is someone from within the organization that is typically not a part of the group. Maybe it is someone from an entirely different organization. Including an outsider can bring a fresh perspective to a team.
- Once agreement is reached, question it. Especially, if consensus is reached quickly. Do not leave the meeting space until everyone is fully convinced that every stone has been turned. There will not be a better time to question the decision. A final examination of ideas will also add to the group’s confidence regarding their decision.
The best teams bring different perspectives and sharpen one another as they develop ideas. You should always expect to receive questions from the outside once an idea is being executed, so it is good stewardship to go ahead and explore as many questions as possible when working together. Fear of conflict can lead everyone to leave without a single uncomfortable or awkward moment. But skipping the process of challenging one another can blind us to some of the best ideas. When we take the easiest path, we sometimes miss out on the greatest results.