Groupthink: Why it Stinks and How to Avoid It | Catherine Mattiske

Feb 6 / Catherine Mattiske

You've probably heard of the term "groupthink" before, but what is it exactly?

 Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when people in a group place a higher priority on maintaining harmony and avoiding conflict than on critically evaluating their own ideas. In other words, members of a group will conform to the majority opinion without truly considering whether or not that opinion is correct.

While groupthink can lead to some great results (after all, there's strength in numbers), it can also be problematic. When people are too afraid to express dissenting opinions, important details can be overlooked and bad decisions can be made. That's why it's so important to be aware of the signs of groupthink and take steps to avoid it.

Eliminating Groupthink for Business Advantage

Groupthink can be a major obstacle to success in business. It causes us to think and act in similar ways, makes us less creative, and prevents us from building healthy relationships with colleagues. Eliminating groupthink from teams is essential for creating an environment of innovation and success.

What is Groupthink?

Groupthink is a well-known concept, but what exactly is it and how does it work? 

At its core, groupthink is the opposite of learning, connecting, and communicating with others. The dynamics of groupthink interactions influence our everyday behavior and decisions in profound ways. They stifle us from new ideas and insights, making us less receptive and more influenced by the opinions of others. They also help us learn how to influence others in positive ways by tapping into our shared Inner Genius and entering into a creative "Genius Zone" where innovative ideas are born.

Groupthink: Why it Stinks and How to Avoid It

What Are The Problems With Groupthink?

As this suggests, recognizing and overcoming the pitfalls of groupthink requires that we learn how to tap into our own inner strength, intelligence, ingenuity, and creativity. Rather than blindly following the crowd or doing what others expect of us, we need to trust our instincts and learn how to listen to our inner voice – our true Inner Genius – so that we can become better thinkers and problem-solvers in all areas of life. After all, isn't this what being human is all about? Isn't it about connecting with others while staying true to ourselves? Isn't it about communicating with authenticity while expressing our own unique insights and Inner Genius? In short, isn't it about reaching our full potential as individuals? And if so, then clearly there is no better way forward than by embracing a lifelong journey towards self-discovery and personal growth.

The Impact of Groupthink on Mental Health

Unfortunately, groupthink can also have a negative impact on our mental and physical health. By diminishing our creativity and openness to new ideas, it can lead to stress and frustration. This can cause us to become isolated from others, leaving us feeling overwhelmed by the pressure of expectations from those around us.

Additionally, when we feel restricted from expressing ourselves and exploring new opportunities, it can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. Groupthink can also lead to a decrease in productivity as members become frustrated with the lack of progress and ideas being shared. Ultimately, groupthink can be detrimental to our mental well-being if left unchecked.

If you're unsure whether or not your group dynamics are healthy, it's important to evaluate the environment and make sure that everyone is being treated respectfully. Additionally, it's essential to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to voice their ideas and opinions in a safe and supportive space. By creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and open dialogue, we can foster healthy group dynamics and create a greater sense of collective understanding – without the problems of groupthink.

The Signs of Groupthink

There are several warning signs that groupthink might be at play in a group situation. These include:

  • A belief that the group is always right
  • A belief that the group is always right
  • A pressure to conform to the majority opinion
  • A reluctance to express dissent
  • An unquestioned acceptance of the leader's decisions
  • A lack of critical thinking
  • A self-censorship of dissenting opinions
  • An illogical or irrational decision-making process

If you find yourself in a situation where one or more of these warning signs are present, it's important to take action to avoid succumbing to groupthink.

How to Avoid Groupthink

There are several steps you can take to avoid falling victim to groupthink. These include:

1. Encouraging dissenting opinions

When everyone feels like they can express their true thoughts and feelings, they're more likely to do so. This will help ensure that all voices are heard and that important details aren't overlooked.

2. Stimulating discussion

Discussion is key in any decision-making process. By stimulating discussion amongst members of a group, you can encourage critical thinking and help ensure that all factors are considered before a decision is made.

3. Encouraging outside input

Sometimes, the best way to avoid groupthink is to get an outside perspective. This could mean bringing in someone from outside the organization or simply asking a friend for their opinion.

Groupthink Hinders Healthy Relationships

Groupthink can lead to stress, discord, and frustration in relationships. It distorts communication by creating an echo chamber of “yes” responses instead of engaging in meaningful dialogue. This type of environment discourages disagreement which is essential for healthy relationships.

With groupthink present, it becomes difficult to learn, grow and bond with one another in meaningful ways. Additionally, individuals are no longer able to explore their Inner Genius, or access the “Genius Zone” which can be a source of true connection when done correctly.

Groupthink not only hinders relationships but can also create a toxic environment where mental health is negatively impacted.  To prevent groupthink and foster healthy relationships, it is important to cultivate an atmosphere of open communication and mutual respect.  This will allow for a greater exchange of ideas, support for each other’s Inner Genius, and the ability to access the “Genius Zone” together.  When this happens, relationships become more productive, meaningful, and enjoyable.

BONUS! 10 Tips to Eliminate Groupthink Today!

In order to eliminate groupthink and create productive, healthy relationships and conversations, it is important to be mindful of the following tips:

  • Identify when you or your group is engaging in the behavior.
  • Ask yourself why you’re doing it.
  • Take a step back and analyze the situation from all angles.
  • Ask questions to encourage open dialogue and help members of your group think for themselves.
  • Invite outside perspectives and consider different points of view.
  • Leverage the Inner Genius of everyone involved in the conversation or decision-making process.
  • Aim to bridge different opinions and reach a solution together in the “Genius Zone”.
  • Make sure everyone has the opportunity to voice their opinion without judgment or intimidation.
  • Encourage respectful dialogue and constructive feedback.
  • Celebrate collaborative successes!

To tap into each individual's Genius Quotient and avoid groupthink, teams should focus on open-ended questions that provoke deep thinking. Asking ‘why’ or ‘how’ will help team members to view the problem from a variety of angles, encouraging creative problem-solving.

Team leaders should also strive to create an atmosphere of trust, which allows each member to feel free to express their ideas without fear of ridicule or judgment.

Lastly, teams should establish a clear division of labor and assign roles to team members that play to their individual strengths. By valuing each member’s Genius Quotient and creating an atmosphere where they can use it, teams can avoid the pitfalls of groupthink and nurture innovation.


Groupthink can be dangerous because it leads people to conform without truly considering whether or not the majority opinion is correct. If you find yourself in a situation where groupthink might be at play, take action to avoid succumbing to it by encouraging dissenting opinions, stimulating discussion, and seeking outside input. Remember, there's strength in numbers — but only if those numbers are coming from informed individuals!

About Catherine

About Catherine mattiske

Catherine Mattiske, best known for creating ID9 Intelligent Design and the Genius Quotient (GQ), is a leading light in the corporate learning and team-building industries. She regularly works with large and small organizations to help team members better understand one another while effectively collaborating and boosting individual and team morale and productivity in the workplace.

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