Group Think A Critique of Consensus

Category: Education

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A presentation for Communication Studies by Grace Barba


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GROUP THINK A Critique of Consensus By Grace Barba Image: Movie Still from “Metropolis” 1927 German / Fritz Lang. A favorite movie of Adolph Hitler… one that eerily reminds me of the dangers of “Group Think”. Photo Credit:

Why is it DANGEROUS? How can it be AVOIDED?:

Why is it DANGEROUS? How can it be AVOIDED? School children pledging loyalty and obedience to Adolf Hitler. Nazi Germany. (Source: Notes on Nationalism:

What IS Group Think?:

What IS Group Think? The term “groupthink,” defined by psychologist Irving Janis in 1972, refers to how cohesive groups of people make and justify faulty decisions. People affected by groupthink usually feel pressured to conform to the views expressed by an influential group leader. They hesitate to voice concerns for fear of being shamed or ostracized, and, in the absence of dissent, they assume all other group members approve of the decisions being made. Alternatives to the group’s actions are either dismissed or never considered at all. Outsiders who raise objections are often regarded as enemies and dehumanized. Groupthinking most often arises in homogenous, insulated groups that possess no clear guidelines for decision making. Reference:


Image courtesy:


FAMOUS EXAMPLES OF “GROUP THINK” What are the consequences ? Why does it matter?

Group Think: Crisis & Cuban Missiles:

Group Think: Crisis & Cuban Missiles The Kennedy Administration: During the Cuban Missile Crisis. Perhaps the closest the United States has ever come to a Nuclear War. Nuclear Missiles, aimed at the United States, were positioned 60 miles off the coast of Florida in communist Cuba. After the crisis was over – many in the Kennedy administration admitted that they disagreed with strategy; but were afraid to “speak out” and break consensus ,during key white house meetings. Photo courtesy: Getty images


FROM HERE TO ETERNITY A Dramatic Example of the Consequences of “Group Think”. A Loss of Life – An Innocence Shattered Following “Challenger” Images courtesy of NASA.


Space Shuttle Challenger DISASTER


The Space Shuttle Challenger, with school teacher Christa McAuliffe aboard, exploded in flames on live television on January 28, 1986 . The direct cause of the Challenger explosion was technical - faulty O-rings. But the Challenger also presented a case study in organizational communication and ethics , including the ethics of organizational structure and culture as it promotes or discourages necessary communication, the ethics of whistle blowing, and an excellent study of group think . Reference: Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident (the Rogers Commission) report for the official version of the Challenger explosion: http :// contents.html.


The press reported that engineers at Morton Thiokol, the contractor responsible for building the solid rocket booster, had vigorously opposed the launching of Challenger, but their warning had not been heeded by management. Why?? A well structured and managed system emphasizing safety would have flagged the rising doubts about the Solid Rocket Booster joint seal; postponing the launch … The Commission concluded that the Thiokol management reversed its position and recommended the launch of 51-L, at the urging of Marshall and contrary to the views of its engineers… in order to accommodate a major customer.

Group Think The Pressure to Conform.:

Group Think The Pressure to Conform. Don’t “Rock the Boat… just flow with the current”, is BAD advice. How to Overcome it? Image courtesy:


Courtesy: Bing Images


AVOIDING GROUP THINK The Group should: Explore objectives. Explore alternatives. Encourage ideas to be challenged without reprisal. Examine the risks if the preferred choice is chosen. Test assumptions. If necessary, go back and re-examine initial alternatives that were rejected. Gather relevant information from outside sources. Process this information objectively. Have at least one contingency plan (plan B).

Reducing the Barriers to Innovation: Techniques to Overcome Group Think: :

Reducing the Barriers to Innovation: Techniques to Overcome Group Think: Brainstorming Helps ideas flow freely without criticism. Modified Borda Count Allows each group member to contribute individually, so mitigating the risk that stronger and more persuasive group members dominate the decision making process. Six Thinking Hats Helps the team look at a problem from many different perspectives, allowing people to play "Devil's Advocate". The Delphi Technique Allows team members to contribute individually, with no knowledge of a group view, and with little penalty for disagreement. Courtesy:


Graphic courtesy:

Overcoming group think is difficult; but the rewards are worth it… progress, innovation, and even the avoidance of terrible outcomes.:

Overcoming group think is difficult; but the rewards are worth it… progress, innovation, and even the avoidance of terrible outcomes.


GOOD GROUP COMMUNICATION Consists of: BY LEARNING FROM THE MISTAKES OF GROUP THINK IN OUR HISTORY – WE CAN AVOID THE CONSEQUENCES OF IT IN OUR FUTURE. THANK YOU FOR WATCHING MY PRESENTATION FOR COMMUNICATION STUDIES Grace Barba Student of Dr. Vernon Humphrey Columbus State University Instilling a culture of openness, honesty and trust among co-workers is vital to effective group communication. All group participants must feel that they are free to contribute to the best of their ability without the fear of rejection, insult or political repercussions. Groups must be able to pool their intellectual resources to reach their full effectiveness, and that can only be accomplished when all members are ready and able to tackle new challenges in innovative ways. Group Think: A Critique of Consensus – Finding the Divine in the Divisive…

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