When managing risk, we must consider all risk from all sources. A majority of the time identifying risk is trusted to a few individuals, although determining which risks are the highest priority is done in a collaborative environment, with managers, teams and groups of colleagues discussing the issues at hand. In this setting, it is important that the risk manager (the one whose job depends on the risk management results) recognizes and prevents any instances of groupthink.
Groupthink occurs when groups make decisions, and are willing (or unknown to the group) to take more risk than an individual would themselves. This post provides a general overview of causes and symptoms of groupthink, as well as measures that can be taken to avoid groupthink.
*Updated January 2014*
Groupthink was originally coined by Irving Janis, a research psychologist from Yale University. Janis identified three core causes for groupthink, which are:
With an understanding of what causes groupthink, or the willingness to execute riskier decisions in collaborative decision making, we can now examine the symptoms of groupthink as identified by Janis.
We have suggested a few ways to address groupthink above. There are also measures that can be taken to prevent groupthink from occurring. The first step is to foresee groupthink’s occurrence. Groupthink is a social phenomenon and it is safe to assume it will occur at one point. Plan for it and be ready to stop it in its track.
Another preventative measure is to always have external perspectives and a “Devil’s Advocate” within the group. Identifying someone within the group who has the role of presenting opposing viewpoints and who is able to view things as an outsider can serve as a preventive measure to groupthink.
As risk managers, we must ensure risks are mitigated and proper opportunities are pursued. It is vital to step up and prevent groupthink from allowing risky decisions to be made simply because it is the consensus of the group.