4 ways to keep groupthink from dragging down your teams

You spend all that time putting together a problem-solving team that looks excellent on paper and then what happens? They all just agree with the first idea that gets put on the table and call it a day.

Groupthink is the archnemesis of creativity. It can take even the most promising teams and drag down their performance and productivity.

Here are four keys to stomping out groupthink before it has a chance to take hold of your team:

  1. Keep teams small. The bigger the group, the more tempting it is for some workers to just hang back and let others lead the way. With smaller teams (i.e., less than 10), if someone’s not participating or pulling his/her weight, it stands out more.
  2. Get outsiders involved. During each phase of a team’s project, bring in some outside points of view. These could be representatives from other departments, or even customers. Basically anyone who has some stake in the project can work. Bringing in an outsider can give a team a fresh take on a problem and inject new life into the team members.
  3. Don’t rush to judgment. Encourage the team to come up with multiple solutions to a problem. For one thing, this will keep the discussion going long after the first idea has been shared. On top of that, if their first plan fails, they’ll already have a couple of well-developed back-up plans waiting in the wings.
  4. Appoint a “devil’s advocate.” Designate one person on the team to play the role of devil’s advocate. He or she is charged with taking the opposite viewpoint of the rest of the team in an effort to generate more discussion. For example: If the team comes up with a solution, the job of the devil’s advocate’s is to come up with at least one reason it won’t work or one thing that could go wrong.

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