Groupthink sometimes leads to bad decisions
Via cfd, an interesting chapter on groupthink from a book on communication theory.
Irving Janis analyzed the Challenger disaster of 1986 and isolated groupthink as a factor explaining why the top people at NASA took the decision to launch the shuttle when there was good reason to believe the conditions weren’t safe. He identified the following eight symptoms of groupthink. (Quick test: how many of these does your organization exhibit? What about your circle of friends?)
- Illusion of Invulnerability
- Belief in Inherent Morality of the Group
- Collective Rationalization
- Out-group Stereotypes
- Illusion of Unanimity
- Direct Pressure on Dissenters
- Self-Appointed Mindguards
The author however reminds us that groupthink is not all bad:
There are also many routine occasions when a groupthink mode is actually helpful because it makes for a speedy and amicable consensus on issues of minor importance. But according to Janis, when a group confronts a great threat or a grand opportunity, concurrence-seeking almost always produces an inferior solution.
One of the great things about the open communities we see on the web is that dissenting views are never too far away, which can help us think a little more before making up our mind.