Author: Manu Steens
In this article I give my personal opinion, not that of any organization.
This article is inspired by “Chapter 10 – Fairness, Diversity, Groupthink and Peer Effects: Why Other People Are Important to Our Risky Decisions” from the book ‘The Ten Commandments of Risk Leadership – A Behavioral Guide on Strategic Risk Management’ by Annette Hofmann. She gives the following law of risk leadership:
“Teams with great diversity with defined rules for communication and collaboration make better decisions.”
Research shows that teams need collaborative assignments/tasks, known rewards, and defined objectives to have a psychological sense of security and to promote productivity. Conflict can be good. If we aim for a good decision-making process, a diverse team with specific communication and cooperation rules is needed.
How does this relate to pure camaraderie? The first question is: what do we understand by camaraderie?
At https://www.vertalen.nu/betekenis/en/camaraderie , the term is defined as:
- camaraderie among colleagues
- “the quality of affording easy familiarity and sociability”
In my ideal image of a group of comrades, everyone is equal. It is seen that when they want to organize something among comrades, they looks at the natural leader. And therein lies a hidden dangerous factor in the behavior, namely groupthink.
The original description of groupthink is by Janis (1991):
‘A mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.’
It occurs when certain antecedent conditions (symptoms of groupthink) and a defective decision-making process are present.
The most important antecedent condition is a ‘cohesive group’. A similar other is isolation of the group. In both cases additional opinions and advice from third parties cannot end up in the group where they need to be. And are therefore not considered.
In addition, the attitude of the group leader is important. Especially when he selectively favors people in their opinion (often his own). Or when the group is homogeneously composed of like-minded people.
A third antecedent condition refers to provocative situational contexts. For example, in case of extreme time pressure, one chooses the leader’s solution, because one sees no other way out or considers nothing else as realistically feasible.
In addition, members with low self-esteem like to seek confirmation within a group and are averse to contradicting others (with group consensus).
Complex and moral conflicts can also affect an individual.
Symptoms of striving for unanimity are:
- Illusion of being invulnerable.
- An inflated level of optimism.
- Increased willingness to take risks.
- Blindness to warning signs and impending failure.
- The belief that you are unstoppable.
- The conviction of moral superiority.
- Stereotyping of other groups.
- The conviction of superior intelligence.
- Considering negotiation with other groups futile because the other group is seen as incompetent and weak.
- Underestimating the opponents.
- Collective rationalization of one’s own great right.
- Direct pressure on dissenters in the group.
- The oppressive person presents himself as a sentiment guard.
Lesson learned from this could be that a strong cohesion of the group is one of the most important contributions to groupthink.
Groupthink needs strong feelings of solidarity and the individual desire of the group members to have good relationships with each other. This is often seen in comrades in a cohesive group.
The correlation between groupcohesion and groupthink is rather weak. But there is one. ‘Debiasing’ strategies are therefore needed.
A group with a strong leader is vulnerable to groupthink. Or if one is unsure of having a dissenting opinion.
- Self-leadership is important for risk leadership to build self-confidence. For this, the interpersonal sense of safety is important.
- Against homogeneity of the group and groupthink, third parties can be involved in the story. Often these are consultants.
the group leader express his opinion last is useful to let others express their
opinion for themselves. This is important for the impartiality of the leader.
Otherwise, there is a danger that in the group
- less information is used;
- the leader exerts too much influence;
- fewer proposals for solutions come on the table
- In addition to personal safety, constructive conflict is beneficial. This is because differences in team members’ opinions, ideas, values, and ways of thinking are important to learn to work together optimally. This is best done with a high degree of interpersonal safety.
Leadership is a double-edged sword because:
- leadership can prevent groupthink by being aware of the antecedent conditions, the symptoms of groupthink, and symptoms of defective decision-making processes;
- strong leadership can kick-start groupthink.
The camaraderie should not be ‘fictitious’: one must continue to dare to challenge the other. Otherwise, one is too easily impressed by the opinion of ‘peers’. After all, higher social interaction also increases this effect.
The culture in the crisis team is important. If in an organization one does not have the habit of expressing one’s own opinion in a crisismeeting, then this groupthink provokes a lower qualitative decision-making process, with higher chance of mistakes. It can go so far that people expect you to keep your idea to yourself. With all the consequences for the quality of the decisions.
A well-known example of such groupthink was the disaster with the Challenger on January 28, 1986.
Another well-known example is the Chernobyl disaster on Saturday, April 26, 1986.
Consequently, it is best to work from a collegiality based on free expression. This may involve aspects of camaraderie, as a catalyst. Not as the main characteristic of mutual behavior.