Avoid This Danger of Teamwork


Most of the CEO’s executive team seemed pretty charged up about the new, ambitious branding campaign. 

“Do you really think we can pull this off?” he asked his team.

There were many head nods, smiles and comments such as, “It’s a winner.”  “Very doable.”  “I wouldn’t want to be our competition.” 

At an informal gathering later, a colleague asked the chief marketing officer, “Do you really think the CEO’s plan will be effective?”

“Seriously, I have my doubts,” was his response.

“Why didn’t you say something in the meeting?

“I did not want to be seen as an anti-team player.” 

Psychologist Irvin Janis, long ago labeled the danger of stressing harmony among teams as “groupthink.”  In the interest of functioning as effective team members, some individual members falsely express their support for others’ ideas.  This reduces dissenting opinions and sometimes leads to bad decisions.

To avoid meandering into a groupthink culture, leaders can regularly:

  • honor disagreements,
  • aggressively seek contrary views,
  • designate a member to play the role of devil’s advocate, and
  • seek opinions of outside experts.

Additionally, leaders may separate evaluations and decision making.  That is, designate one meeting for evaluating options and a second meeting for making the decision.

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