Groupthink: Problem Solving and Groups

1727 words 7 pages

The Challenger space shuttle explosion. The Bay of Pigs invasion. The Korean War debacle (Janis 1-28). These are examples of situations where group communication failed. Group communication involves a shared identity among three or more people, a considerable amount of interaction among these people, and a high level of interdependence between everyone involved (Trenholm 196-97). It is essential to understand group dynamics for a variety of reasons. Everyone participates in groups throughout the course of a lifetime, and these groups are often very goal-oriented. The business community, non-profit organizations, and town governments all use groups to make decisions. Sometimes a condition known as Groupthink can occur in
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"Self-censorship" occurs when group members don't share their ideas with the rest of the group because of fear of being rejected (Keil 2). The "illusion of unanimity" explains that silence can often be interpreted as acceptance. All of these are symptoms of Groupthink. If one or more of these are commonplace in a particular group, change must occur.
Janis offers many suggestion to help prevent Groupthink. An easy answer is to put one person in charge of making all decisions and dealing with problems. This is not desirable in most cases, however (Janis 260-61). Groups are often able to accomplish tasks more rapidly and precisely than individuals can (Cartwright and Zander 56-57). The distribution of power in a group usually assures that no single person is able to take control. The plan of one person is more likely to be flawed than the plan of a group. More people inputting their opinion will help the group formulate a creative and complete plan.
One way of preventing Groupthink is to make each member of the group a "critical evaluator" (Janis 262). Group members will attempt to find problems in group solutions by evaluating them individually. The leader must accept criticism if this is to work (Janis 262). But making each member of the group analyze solutions individually is problematic. Group members can spend too much time debating


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