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Group Think

Any tips on how to avoid 'group think' in project teams - particularly within smaller companies that tend to lack the diversity of larger firms?

Great question Karla!

Several things that are helpful if you lack diversity on the team. One thing I've found helpful is appointing someone to play the role of devils advocate. You can also have the entire team come up with other approaches after they have made their conclusion (divergent thinking). Also, depending on the size of the company you may be able to bring in some external perspectives from within the organization or in some cases even outside the team while keeping in mind that you don't want too large a group. Keep a focus on the process of discussion, allowing ample time and an inclusive approach that helps everyone have a voice. There are other specific brainstorming techniques that can be helpful as I'd invite you to explore more about brainstorming.
Best wishes on putting these tips into action,

Assign specific tasks within a project to all individuals working on that project. This will allow each person to develop sepcific ideas and resolutions, instead of leaning on others for guidance. This enables the group to think individually, rather than as a whole.


Excellent and you are right about the need to assign specific tasks. Is there an approach you have used successfully to align tasks with people's strengths?
Dr. Eric Goodman

Allowing team members to choose their own task helps as well. People have a tendency to excel when completing task they enjoy or are within their area of expertise.

April ,

Very true although is there anything you need to balance in this process?

Dr. Eric Goodman

I have been very fortunate to work with a small diverse group of instructors. When we are faced with a new project or communal goal, each team member has an area of expertise that they apply to the new challenge. We all model these skills for the others, which makes us, even as a group, more adept at multiple aspects of project completion. At first, we all stayed with the areas that we were most comfortable in, but as we shared and observed eachother, we were in-boldend to branch out and try new approaches. I think this practice allow us, as individuals, to learn new skills, and us, as a group, more capable to approach new challenges with confidence.


Thanks for sharing your experience and it is nice to know that you branched out to try new approaches. I'm wondering what you think allowed people to be open to exploring other areas?

Dr. Eric Goodman

I have a very small group (4) and "group think" would certainly be easy for us to do. Fortunately we do a lot of "throw the idea out there" and the rest of us pull it apart, looking at the logistics of execution, student experience, benefit toward student learning, how and when would be the best time to make it happen, who/what outside the campus is involved. We have always come up with an malleable idea that is easily planned, executed and gets rave reviews from the students. Many times each of us has to contribute a small part to make it happen. As the group leader, I follow up with the team members to keep everyone on track.

Rose Ann,

Excellent to know how you manage "group think". I'm wondering if as a group you set certain ground rules? Also, what type of follow up do you do to keep everyone on track?
Dr. Eric Goodman

We have routine staff meetings with a fixed agenda so everyone knows what we will be talking about. Its a great way to bring problems to the table and we all have different experiences to draw from to help solve the problems. Every team member has been chosen for this group because of their different experiences and interests. we always get different perspectives about how to solve problems and approach issues. Usually one person will be more suited to address and issue and they will volunteer to make it right. we keep minutes and review the old business at the next meeting to be sure it is addressed. Our rule is "speak your mind" because we all have different views on how to approach issues.

Rose Ann,

Thanks for sharing the excellent structure and approach to your meetings. It sounds as if you are very intentional and the fact you chose people for this group will be a tremendous advantage. I'm wondering if you were in a situation where you weren't able to choose the members how you'd minimize group think?

Dr. Eric Goodman

If I am with a group of people working on a project and the "group think" begins to happen then I play the "pull at the threads game". I will bring up ideas to try and get some discussion going, or I will move on to another topic and return to the original topic with the hope that additional discussion on other parts of the project will break up the group and get the ideas and input going again. I think its about managing the meeting and getting the team to run together the race together, not just in a herd like sheep.

Rose Ann,

Great approach and I really like the metaphor of pulling at the threads! You are right that the critical aspect is really getting them to run together and the management of the meeting.

Dr. Eric Goodman

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