How to Avoid Groupthink in 5 Steps

Team pondering strategies on how to avoid groupthink, with thoughtful expressions.

When you’re lean, the momentum and success of your organization rely on a small group of people capable of designing and testing solutions for a wide range of challenges. Even with a cross-functional mindset, there’s an inherent challenge facing collaborative teams: how to prevent groupthink.

Groupthink, a psychological phenomenon, leads a team to minimize conflict, avoid critical evaluation, and ultimately conform to a group’s thought process. Essentially, the team denies the uniqueness of individuals with diverse experiences and expertise, establishing a streamlined way of thinking. This groupthink results in overconfidence in poorly evaluated ideas, impairing the group’s ability to recognize opportunities for testing, expansion, or evolution.

How to Prevent Groupthink

In a lean organization, conscious efforts must be made to combat groupthink. Here are five strategies:

1. Recruit a Diverse Team

In lean organizations, every individual is crucial. During interviews, delve beyond resumes and learn about each person’s story. Consider how they contribute to the diversity of interests, experiences, passions, and positions. Aim for a team that can draw on a variety of experiences, fostering a cross-functional environment that naturally discourages groupthink.

2. Organize Your Space

While collaborative workspaces are celebrated, individuals also need spaces for solitary reflection. Designate areas for independent thought, whether converted offices, sheds, or a simple corner with a hammock and headphones. The physical setup should convey that your organization values independent thought.

3. Make Time for Independent Evaluation

Meetings shouldn’t be the sole platform for discussion. Encourage independent evaluation by communicating challenges in advance, posting them on a virtual or physical “Consider This” wall, or via email. Encourage every team member to develop ideas beforehand, promoting thoughtful consideration and showcasing the value placed on each individual’s input. Taking time to form and share thoughts individually forms a platform for separate ideas opposite the results of groupthink.

4. Encourage Personal and Professional Development

Diversity strategies should extend to current team members. Foster a culture where team members explore new ideas and interests. Implement team and individual development initiatives, such as PechaKucha presentations on unique interests or partnerships with organizations to expose the team to diverse perspectives.

5. Celebrate Diverse Perspectives

Celebrate each team member’s strategic mind. Always ask “why” to encourage discussion when new ideas are proposed. Embrace constructive debate and highlight instances where an individual’s experience informs a strategy. In a lean organization, challenge and diversity are vital—recognize the value of each team member and actively remind them to do the same! Leveraging and leaning into differing perspectives stops groupthink in its tracks.

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How can I avoid groupthink in my lean organization?

To avoid groupthink in your lean organization, consider recruiting a diverse team, organizing spaces for independent thought, making time for individual evaluation, encouraging personal and professional development, and celebrating diverse perspectives.

Why is groupthink detrimental to lean organizations?

Groupthink can be detrimental to lean organizations because it leads to a lack of critical evaluation, conformity to a streamlined way of thinking, and overconfidence in poorly evaluated ideas, ultimately hindering the organization’s ability to recognize opportunities for growth and evolution.

How can I encourage independent evaluation in my team?

To encourage independent evaluation in your team, communicate challenges in advance, provide opportunities for team members to develop ideas on their own, and create platforms such as a “Consider This” wall or email threads for sharing individual thoughts before group discussions.

What are some strategies to celebrate diverse perspectives in a lean organization?

To celebrate diverse perspectives in a lean organization, always ask “why” to encourage discussion, embrace constructive debate, highlight instances where individual experiences inform strategies, and implement initiatives for personal and professional development among team members.

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