When Opportunity is Lost to Groupthink

credit: barrycarter.co

I have been reading some books on decision-making and communication lately. It’s been a great eye-opening. Irving’s Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and the study by Robert Miller and Garry Williams on the decision making process are great eye-opening. One aspect I found very insightful is the concept of groupthink.

According to Wikipaedia,

“Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.

“Groupthink requires individuals to avoid raising controversial issues or alternative solutions, and there is loss of individual creativity, uniqueness and independent thinking. The dysfunctional group dynamics of the ‘ingroup’ produces an ‘illusion of invulnerability’ (an inflated certainty that the right decision has been made).”

You can be in a room full of smart people and the group still end up making the most terrible decision. Somehow, the good or great ideas get buried in a sea of skepticism and pessimism.

Steve Blank, the author of Startup Owner’s Manual, related a story of how someone got the first iPhone device to Nokia board of directors the very next day after Apple launched the product. After the presentation, one of the board members ask, “what is their market share?” And the rest just flowed with the tide!

The problem with groupthink is that it leads to the maintaining of the status quo, which leads to getting normal ordinary results. All great results have been the product of going against the status quo. Men and women who have done great things as a result of taking great decision have done that against the prevailing wisdom.

As entrepreneurs, we must avoid groupthink if we are to rise above the ordinary or get extra-ordinary results. This has been proven again and again. If most successful entrepreneurs have waited until others who are so important to them gave their nod, they won’t have started let alone achieve anything

As investors, the worst thing that can happen to us is to rely and depend on reaching an harmonious view-point with others in the group (no matter how important the group is) before certain decisions are made.

Groupthink is good at getting tried and tested results (aka documented results); but for breakthrough decisions, you have to rely on your gut and your God.