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How groupthink affects everyone’s productivity

Groupthink might be bad for society as a whole, but doesn't it reduce friction and increase productivity? No, not really. Here's why.

Group thinking leads to positive movements and actions where everyone has a voice, and everyone gets listened to. The final product will be an amalgamation of everyone’s perspectives.

When we allow negative groupthink to take over our work, we risk lowering the quality of our products and reduced productivity.

This has been proven time and time again through various studies.

It’s also been proven that greater diversity of thought leads to greater productivity, innovation and profits.

What has not yet been proven is how this happens or why.

Here’s an educated guess:

Have you ever been working on a project where groupthink took over? Most people didn’t really agree with where the project was going, but nobody spoke up.

Maybe you didn’t challenge the status quo because it was a new job.

Maybe the team’s leader was a friend of yours, and you didn’t want to undermine them.

Perhaps you just didn’t care about the project anymore because it had strayed so far from its original intentions.

The reasons don’t really matter – the fact that you disengaged from the project does.

When we find ourselves in this kind of situation, no matter the surface reasons for our disengagement, we’ve somewhat given up caring because we’ve lost our power to affect change.

Our motivation decreases, and we just go with the flow – even if we think the flow is going in the wrong direction.

When we’re unmotivated, we can’t be productive. We become motivated when we feel like we have some kind of power to change something.

So, when we look at groupthink from this perspective, it’s not really that we need to add something to our groups at all. Instead, we need to stop taking stuff away from them – namely, power.

If I was writing this 200,000 years ago, this might be a valid recommendation:

‘Don’t take power away from others in a group, and you’ll achieve greater productivity and innovation.’

Unfortunately, we live in societies built on social power constructs that tend towards the centralisation of power. That concept of central power dominates almost every aspect of our lives.

We expect it.

We get scared when there isn’t a central power.

Except, often, the centralised power sources don’t provide the return on investment we might expect.

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Groupthink: Understanding the Need for a Diverse Workplace

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