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Watch out for groupthink!

A good team is more than the sum of its parts.

But what if that is not the case? I know teams that deal with each other in a very appreciative way, no birthday is ever forgotten, everyone feels comfortable with each other. "We are a great team!" the team members say, "we take care of each other" and "we don't let anything get to our team".

The leader of such a great team came up to me recently and told me that she was actually very happy that her team had developed such a strong cohesion. There were hardly any room-filling discussions anymore. And often she is not even asked in places where this was necessary in the past. She did not complain about this, because she felt relieved.

Beware of too much harmony in the team

If the team had not made several decisions in recent months that turned out to be problematic, there would be no reason to complain. Of course, mistakes happen, but in the meantime she got the feeling that she had to intervene more again, said the team leader. At the same time, she feared that her team could interpret this as a withdrawal of trust.

When I asked her about the argument culture of her team, she replied that meanwhile there were actually no more arguments in her team. All team members had adjusted well to each other and were now working together very harmoniously.

At the latest, the emphasis on "very harmonious" rings alarm bells in my head. Often these and similar formulations are an expression of a phenomenon called groupthink.

What is groupthink?

One speaks of groupthink when team members withhold their opinions for the sake of harmony in the team. This can be the case, for example, when one's own point of view differs from the predominant group opinion. Teams with a strong sense of "we" and small teams in which no one wants to exclude themselves are particularly susceptible to groupthink.

If time pressure is added to this, there is a great danger that valuable individual opinions will not be expressed in order to supposedly save time and at the same time maintain harmony. In this way, enriching contributions are lost. Synergy, which is an essential component of team success, is lost. If one resorts to the metaphor of the "sum of its parts", the result is then in the worst case less than the sum of the parts.

What is a good team?

The confidence to be able to bring in dissenting or unpopular individual opinions is an essential criterion for the quality of a team. A good team is by no means characterised by harmony, but by the ability to consider, evaluate and integrate different points of view and experiences.

How can groupthink be counteracted?

Raising awareness of the phenomenon

An essential way to counteract groupthink is to explain the phenomenon to the team. It is important to show that as a result of groupthink even a good team can remain below its potential.

Use methodical measures

At the beginning of a decision-making process, all team members present their point of view so that divergent views become clear and are included in the solution-finding process. This is done particularly effectively through a card enquiry.

One team member is assigned the role of the doubter/advocate diaboli. His/her role is to critically question the group consensus.

Conclusion: A good team is characterised by a diverse range of opinions and has the ability to bring together different perspectives for decision-making.

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