The Dangers of Groupthink

CBC News Online article, “United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: report on pre-Iraq war intelligence,” highlights the detrimental outcomes of groupthink mentality.  In this particular case, groupthink amongst top governmental agencies resulted in deciding to wage a war against Iraq. 

Groupthink occurs when teams or agencies have such a high level of trust/cohesion that rather than thinking through and/or challenging assumptions, everyone just goes with the flow whether there is sound evidence for that decision or not.  I think it is easy to fall into this type of mentality not just because of a high level of cohesion, but also perhaps laziness, and a fear of being the outsider. 

Often times when we have tough decisions to make that involve input from several people or groups, it can take quite a bit of time.  In order to avoid the hassle and time commitment, it may be easier to go along with what may be perceived as a group consensus.  While a consensus approach may sound more politically correct, it leads to poor decision making that neglects thoroughly analyzing assumptions and conclusions from different angles that multiple viewpoints provide.

These types of open discussions where members of the group(s) can analyze and question each other must be encouraged from the top down, which was not the case in this article.  Intelligence Community managers did not encourage their employees to challenge their assumptions, which proved to be a big mistake.  Managers should encourage their employees to embrace conflict and to question assumptions and outcomes in order to reach the best possible solution for the issue/problem even if it wasn’t reached through a consensus.

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