Groupthink - Decision Making

Essay by scrappy757University, Bachelor'sA+, January 2005

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Decision-Making Tool


What is problem solving and what is the best approach used to face a workplace problem? In my opinion, there is no one good approach to solving a problem. Depending on the underlying circumstances, one of many approaches can bring resolution to the issue or problem that is presented. When faced with a problem, a technique that I commonly use is group brainstorming or consensus decision-making. I do this by pulling the staff together to identify the issue, analyze the problem, facilitate a group discussion with multiple solutions and finally agree on the best possible approach to the problem. By utilizing this approach one must be aware of the symptoms and pitfalls of group think as well as understand key principles for avoiding this problem. The following text will describe the pitfalls of group think as well as mechanisms for prevention.

What is Group Think?

Group think as described by Wikipedia "as a term coined by psychologist Irving Janis in 1972 to describe one process by which a group can make bad or irrational decisions.

A mode that thinking people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive group, when the members' striving for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action."(pg.1). In a group think situation, each team member modifies his or her opinion to what they feel is the consensus of the group. When this occurs the result is that the group has ultimately agreed on something that each member may normally have different feelings/opinions towards a different course of action.

Symptoms and Examples of Group Think

Defined by Janis (1972) are 8 preceding factors that would likely encourage group think. I will list these factors and give examples utilizing the Space Shuttle Challenger as an example of group think.