Re: group think
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Fri, 24 Jun 94 14:23 CDT
Jim_Snyder-Grant mentioned in a previous posting:
>We have, from time to time, been able to catch 'group-think' at work, the
>pressure on minority points of view to conform to the rest of the 
group, as if
>disagreement was some threat. It is becoming part of our habit as a group to
>notice those sorts of moments & take the time to appreciate people's diverse
>points of view as a gift to the larger group. If we all thought alike, 
we could
>all be wrong at once without any chance of correction - diverse points 
of veiw
>gives us a chance to talk things through & consider options. I'm sure 
this will
>be an ongoing learning for the group - I think us humans get some built-in
>inclination or early training on saying we agree with the group even when we
>disagree; and we even know how to change our perceptions to match those that
>the group around is reporting. I think this is one of the central 
pitfalls that
>groups need to work through.

One of the situational places where group think is very likely is when 
there is a time deadline.  The pressure of getting a decision by 3pm 
increases the potential for groupthink the closer you get to that 
deadline.  I saw a group once who had a process where they actually 
stopped the meeting, took a five minute silent think break, then 
reconvened.  The goal of the think break was a change to quietly 
evaluate what is really important to each individual and to evaluate 
and look for false assumptions.

Another group think situation is towards the end of a long or intense 
meeting.  "Just make the decision and get out of here" can lead to 
group think as well.  I saw this situation defused in another group 
where they all postponed making the decision after talking about it for 
2 hours all morning and temporarily broke the meeting for 2 hours. 
People went and got food, relaxed, went for walks, hung out in the sun. 
 They came back, refreshed, having given good thought to the issue, and 
made what had been a devisive decision all morning, in about 5 minutes, 
having changed the nature of the issue by making the decision 
reviewable again in a year.

This kind of process technique is called defocusing in some of the 
books.  The idea is to stop work and get away from the situation for a 
long enough time to let people defuse their emotions, think rationally 
about the issue, and recharge.  The length of time required will depend 
on the issue, the nature of the group discussion, and any deadlines.

Anyone have any other ideas about how to spot and disarm group think?

Rob Sandelin
Puget Sound Cohousing Network
Building a better society, one neighborhood at a time

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