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How to find solutions and avoid groupthink

Brainstorming for Options

Group brainstorming is the collective generation of numerous potential solutions, creating many business alternatives. Options are opportunities, and the more you have, the better.

You can apply this technique by:

Generating as many ideas as possible — Group members should volunteer as many ideas as they can, going at first for quantity over quality.

Initially withholding judgment on those ideas — Do not judge ideas at first. Sometimes the craziest ideas end up being the most dynamic and successful. By banning any criticism, you allow group members to remain spontaneous and inspired.

Developing ideas that piggyback on other ideas — One idea can lead to another, so be sure to pursue ideas as far as possible. For example, one team member may propose opening up a production facility in France. You point out that this would entail producing a lot of company literature in French — and this gives you the idea of diversifying into translation too.

As you participate in or lead brainstorming sessions, remember to help others generate many ideas, refrain from judgment, and develop potential solutions that piggyback on other ideas. This is an ideal way of giving yourself as many options as possible.

Eliminating Groupthink

Groupthink is the tendency of group members to allow conformity and team loyalty to guide their decisions. It also inspires a sense of invulnerability, as if the team’s decisions will always be infallible.

When a team falls prey to groupthink, it censors dissenting opinions, seeks unanimity at any cost, and fails to seek other solutions.

You can overcome groupthink by using the following techniques:

  • initially downplay the strength of your own opinions,
  • assign a rotating devil’s advocate role to members of the group, and 
  • seek feedback from an external expert.