Group thinking and team dysfunctions - Oleksandr Sudarkin on the "MIM TOOLBOX" episode

29 June 2022

Teamwork in critical situations calls for out-of-the-box solutions. Group thinking traps jeopardize effective performance and decision-making. Identification of those traps in teamwork was the focal point of Oleksandr Sudarkin’s presentation at the MIM Toolbox episode.

- Leaders usually like unanimous support of their ideas regardless of what they say about their appreciation of other people's ideas. Bosses often react negatively when people disagree with them. Some even express their dislike very explicitly.

- Usually, they do so to make the group united, that all ideas and decisions were agreed upon with no or very minor shifts. The other reason is the decision-making process when only one person is in fact entitled to make decisions. Any discussions by team members are not considered.

-  We practice decision-making with the help of the Everest simulation. It imitates climbing Everest. While doing so we test several hypotheses. First, do all our team members share the goal? Understanding the variety of the goals is very important. Each team should understand that personal goals are as important as the team ones. Secondly, when you follow your dream, your information often differs from the information of other team members. They may withhold what they know.

- All those factors result in the so-called group thinking or conformity. Conformity has deep roots in the past when being different was dangerous. Even the most different individuals tend to establish their groups. That leads to three main characteristics.

- First of all, people tend to overestimate the groups’ responsibilities and morale. People often think that as a group they cannot be wrong because they accounted for everything. It is the so-called illusion of infallibility. Another manifestation of group thinking is “we are making better decisions because we are better” or trust in groups’ ethics and morale.

- Neglection of the external environment is another group fallacy. It often shows as ignoring any information other than what was already collected or does not fit with our ideas. Groups may be overconfident. They think that their opponents are weak and biased and they can do better than any other team. If we underestimate the competition we are trapped by group thinking.

- Thirdly, groups tend to enjoy unanimity. In such cases, group members do not express their true opinions because the group might be uncomfortable. Because of that, we all may think that there is only one perspective. In such a case, the group may exert pressure on the “black sheep” and even accuse them of lack of loyalty.

For more information on the traps of teamwork visit our recording of the MIM TOOLBOX episode.