How to Prevent Groupthink: Guidelines for Teams

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“Groupthink-No-More” Guidelines for Teams

It is known that Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon, the occurrence of which can be explained by principles of group processes. When it comes down to group work, it is normal for most people to strive for a consensus within a team and adopt the opinion of the rest (Cherry, 2020). This principle that underlines Groupthink is considered to be a negative tendency that reduces the performance of a team. Groupthink occurs under further conditions: the existence of direct pressure on members who ask questions, the presence of the illusion of invulnerability, frequent rationalizing, stereotyping, and most members’ beliefs that there is an agreement within a team. Social context and individual behavior also contribute to the issue as, for instance, nations for which it is not common to argue against older or more proficient specialists’ opinions develop Groupthink more frequently (Cherry, 2020). People who are upset opposite, too excited, also cannot contribute to the discussion and tend to agree with others.

An individual can be instructed to be more or less conforming, compliant, or obedient, depending on the situation, by adjusting his point of view toward the head of the team. It can be indicated that a leader is a human being, and his opinion is not imperative and can be adjusted, improved, or even changed (Savary et al., 2015). On the contrary, providing reasons for the legitimacy of a current leader can be beneficial for making an individual more willing to agree. With respect to the influence of a particular personality, individuals who doubt their knowledge or lack confidence are more vulnerable to Groupthink (Cherry, 2020). On the other hand, those who do not respect authority or are extroverts can successfully contribute to the discussion.

People can manifest several behaviors during a conflict, depending on their environment and personality. Withdrawing is one of the approaches that implies staying away from a conflict. The other one is giving in or achieving peace at any cost, usually complemented by being silent about issues (LeFebvre & Franke, 2013). Forcing is another strategy suitable for the ones who do not value relationships with others and implies the overpowering of an opponent. Finally, compromising and cooperating are approaches that are intended to negotiate a certain decision and find an improved solution. The mentioned above principles show that creativity and innovation are deteriorated because of emotions and traits that contribute to Groupthink, as well as the first two of the mentioned above strategies. Simultaneously, working together toward a goal-achieving has the opposite impact.

Everyone can be required to evaluate ideas critically, and for a leader to keep their opinion to themselves to minimize Groupthink. It is also valuable to consult an outside expert and examine all the alternatives (Ben-Hur et al., 2012). At the same time, teams should be constructed to prevent any direct pressure, awkwardness, and the desire to find a convenient agreement. It is advisable to cooperate with specialists of the same level of proficiency as a leader who does not manipulate others with their opinion. For the examined situation, the role of conflict is to conceive an idea that has not been discussed previously and make team members consider all the alternatives. From the scenario of the case, it is evident that the leader, who is the medical director, oppresses others with his imperative opinion, while all the specialists inherited the approach not to go against the leadership. The shift from the described position to another one, which is that polite arguing against decisions that do not seem to be useful, complementing it with ideas, is due for any employee involved.

Research-Based Team-Training Program

It is possible to develop a research-based individual activity to use in a group training workshop that would enhance independent, creative, and innovative thinking in a group. Based on the above-written guidance and additional investigation, it is possible to outline several factors that contribute to the phenomenon of Groupthink to focus the activities on their addressing during the training. Collective rationalization makes it impossible to consider all the details of an issue, while the illusion of invulnerability forces us to stick to a group’s general opinion (Katopol, 2015). Then, direct pressure on those whose perspective is different is also a part of the difficulty as it deprives a team of a confronting opinion (Katopol, 2015). Finally, there is a tendency among professionals to think the same way, along with a positive attitude toward maintaining a friendly atmosphere, even if it deteriorates the decision-making (Levitan & Verhulst, 2016). Therefore, such points should be a focus of a research-based training program.

The first activity is intended to address the issues: of fear of an opinion to be argued against and normative isomorphism. The group of participants of any size is to decide the order. Then, the group’s first member provides their opinion on a given topic, which should not be concise to enable discussion from different perspectives, supporting it with evidence and examples. The length of the presentation should not exceed two minutes. The second participant is to argue against the previously proposed point of view, supporting the arguments with reasons, for which they are given another 2 minutes. Then, the same member of the group should provide his opinion that is to be different from the previous one. This sequence of steps is repeated until the last participant, the point of view of who is to be argued against by the member of the group who performed the first. Thus, everyone is enabled to provide his own independent point of view and criticize another participant.

The second activity is intended to address the other issues, which are social identity maintenance and the illusion of invulnerability. It is necessary to show that it is possible not to damage a group’s image but rather to support it with a constructive discussion. The activity should also make it clear that there is always a place for improvements, even if the team is confident that they are capable of any achievement without changes in a strategy (LeFebvre & Franke, 2013). The size of a group of participants is not strictly determined, but preferably not less than 4, and no more than six members should comprise each team for the convenience of the activity. The order is also to be defined, and every participant is given a distinct case that can be specific but comprehensive, which is an obligatory requirement. Every member of a group has 3 minutes to explain their idea of how to solve a problem described in a case. After the presentation is over, all the other participants have 1 minute each to complement the proposed idea with improvements that can increase the efficiency of the solution or lead to better outcomes.

The third activity is intended to address the last issue, which is collective rationalization, and contribute to the improvement of mental stability against direct pressure. It is difficult, especially for younger specialists, to defend their opinion against more experienced colleagues. This activity provides them with the possibility to strengthen their self-confidence while teaching others to respond to points of view in an appropriate manner. The order is also to be defined, and every participant is given a distinct case that can be specific but comprehensive, which is an obligatory requirement. Every member of a group has 3 minutes to explain their idea of how to solve a problem described in a case. After the presentation is over, All the other participants have 1 minute each to argue against the proposed idea contributing their opinion with appropriate reasons but not proposing another solution.

The described research-based team-training program has one specific purpose, which is to eliminate the presence of Groupthink within a particular company’s workforce. It can be achieved by addressing the main factors that lead to the phenomenon’s development: collective rationalization, direct pressure, the illusion of invulnerability, and social identity maintenance. The three proposed activities are focused on each distinct factor and, in the event of success, will most likely lead to the elimination of Groupthink. Younger specialists will improve their self-confidence and obtain experience in how to confront their mature colleagues’ opinions. On the contrary, experienced employees, including those who got used to overwhelming others with their imperative perspectives, will learn how to consider other members of the team’s opinions and proposed improvements. The outlined program can be an effective method for Groupthink elimination.


Ben-Hur, S., Kinley, N., & Jonsen, K. (2012). Coaching executive teams to reach better decisions. Journal of Management Development, 31(7), 711–723.

Cherry, K. (2020). What Is Groupthink?

Katopol, P. F. (2015). Groupthink: Group dynamics and the decision-making process. Library Leadership and Management, 30(1), 1–6.

LeFebvre, R., & Franke, V. (2013). Culture matters: Individualism vs. collectivism in conflict decision-making. Societies, 3(1), 128–146.

Levitan, L. C., & Verhulst, B. (2016). Conformity in groups: The effects of others’ views on expressed attitudes and attitude change. Political Behavior, 38(2), 277–315.

Savary, J., Kleiman, T., Hassin, R. R., & Dhar, R. (2015). Positive consequences of conflict on decision making: When a conflict mindset facilitates choice. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 144(1), 1–6.

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