How To Help Your Team Avoid Groupthink

Groupthink is a dilemma that any team leader could face at one time or another. It’s likely that groupthink occurs even more often now due to the rise of hybrid and remote workplaces. Teammates who aren’t seeing each other every day may be discouraged from voicing their own thoughts and opinions. Rather than disrupt the team’s flow and speak up during a Zoom meeting, say, they simply agree and move on. 

Groupthink favors consensus and conformity over conflict. As a result, decisions aren’t evaluated properly and creativity is suppressed. One notable example of groupthink was the Challenger Space Shuttle tragedy. The crew knew parts of the shuttle were faulty, but they stayed mum because they wanted to avoid bad press. The Enron collapse is another: Only a select few made corporate decisions, and they refused to listen to others when the company was faltering.

Whether you’re managing a team of five people or an organization of 500, avoiding groupthink can be difficult. Yet it’s harder to overcome a poor decision than it is to set up your team for success. Below are four tips for helping your team avoid groupthink. 

1. Hire a Diverse Team 

The more diverse the team, the more creative and less prone to groupthink it will tend to be. When people come together to problem-solve, they bring various backgrounds and prior experiences with them. This in-built multiplicity of perspectives discourages conformity. 

One sure way to think about problems differently is to diversify your team by hiring global talent. While every member of your team has unique experiences, those from other countries will provide wholly new takes on how to tackle dilemmas. If your current team has been conducting business one way, international employees could suggest ways it could be done better. 

Now before you open up your hiring process to international talent, know there are certain considerations you’ll need to keep in mind. There will be national laws regarding wages, benefits and taxation that you’ll need to abide by. To avoid this red tape yourself, you may want to engage an employer of record. An EOR hires employees on your behalf, taking care of payroll, benefits administration, and legal compliance. The EOR does the heavy lifting of international employment while you gain the benefit of global viewpoints. 

2. Cultivate a Safe Space 

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure all team members feel safe and secure when voicing their thoughts. Without this, your team will all nod in agreement when either you or the extrovert in the room expresses an opinion. They won’t feel comfortable challenging it or speaking up, even if they don’t necessarily agree. 

To avoid groupthink, give everyone at the table the chance to offer their point of view. If you have introverts on the team, ask what they think or whether they have prior experience that could help shape the decision. Better still, to avoid putting them on the spot, ask them before the meeting whether they’d prefer to share their thoughts in writing.

As a leader, it can be beneficial to be open and vulnerable as well. For instance, if you made a poor decision that ended up creating rework for the team, own up to it. Take the blame and ask the team if they have any suggestions for moving forward in a productive way. Acknowledging your own mistakes demonstrates that no one — including you — is perfect, which is a learning opportunity for everyone. 

3. Conduct Smaller Meetings

If you are managing a large team, listen up. You may be able to avoid groupthink by conducting smaller meetings with a few team members at a time. 

When everyone is gathered together, the more likely it is that only a few extroverts will share their opinions. You may even be tempted to start first and say how you think the situation should be handled. When this happens, everyone else will be prompted to agree and move onto their own individual tasks. 

Say you’re managing a team of 20 engineers. While you could call everyone together to huddle on a decision, you could also break up the team into smaller pods. You can do this in-person or remotely via breakout rooms in your videoconferencing app. After a certain amount of time, reconvene the pods and have each one share their ideas. You’ll likely notice more creative thinking and new individuals stepping up to the plate and contributing.   

4. Bring in Experts

Another way to eliminate groupthink is to administer a dose of new blood in the form of subject matter experts. Consultants exist to provide an objective, outside perspective on issues your company is facing. Inviting one to work with your team may be all it takes to give groupthink the heave-ho. 

You might engage an expert when undertaking a major initiative, such as a new branding effort. Or if you feel that your team is lacking motivation and feeling burned out, an innovation consultant can provide an extra boost of inspiration. 

When selecting experts, again look for diversity. While it’s easy to call up a close friend and invite them to a team meeting, it’s not necessarily your best choice. Seek out experts with backgrounds and experiences that differ from yours and your team’s. The beauty of today’s remote communication capabilities is that just about anyone in the world can meet with your team. After the expert leaves, take time to discuss their thoughts with your team. 


Groupthink is a phenomenon that should be avoided at all costs. It can lead to poor decisions, faulty thinking, and even unethical behavior. When team members are in lockstep, they aren’t thinking creatively or looking at the bigger picture. Both of these can lead to potential dangers, which is why groupthink prevention is something all leaders should keep top of mind. 

Recent Post