Groupthink – A herder or a swarmer?

May 2, 2017 11:18:13 AM / by Joe Kay

The Challenger space shuttle disaster, the Bay of Pigs invasion, and the collapse of Swissair, are all cited as examples of Groupthink – where groups of people fail to recognise the situation they are facing and making the wrong decision.

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs in a group of people, when the desire for harmony or conformity leads to irrational decisions. The term was coined by social psychologist Irving Janis in 1972 and is said to lead to a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment.

Groupthinkers ignore alternatives and take irrational actions. A group is said to be especially vulnerable to Groupthink when its members are from a similar background, when a group is removed from outside opinions, and crucially when there are no clear rules for decision-making. And while we may not all be making decisions that can lead to failures at the level of the famous examples above, Groupthink can negatively impact all types of decisions.

Groupthink is an example of herding behaviour, where people fail to think and operate in a culture of accepting what they are told without question. As a result, if teams do not have processes in place to analyse and fully explore problems, ideas, questions and opportunities, their default mechanism will typically default to unstructured meetings, resulting in Groupthink and bias, where strength of personality can dominate proceedings and alpha individuals can impose their ideas on the rest of the group.


SwarmTools are also designed avoid Groupthink by stimulating:

  1. Individual motivation - when everyone’s contribution is valued, there is a greater desire within the group to succeed
  2. Group intelligence – accessing group intelligence, results in less emotional and helps to overcome Groupthink
  3. Increased diversity – ensuring that all participants are heard with equal weighting, resulting in a greater spectrum of opinions
  4. Removal of bias - anonymity removes intimidation – though SwarmTools include the ability to measure individual contribution to the decision-making process

SwarmTools enable communities and businesses to eliminate Groupthink and replace herding behaviour with swarming behaviour, leading to better decision-making, greater efficiency, and higher productivity.

So, as a leader, SwarmTools allow you to receive the best input from your team and as a team member, the opportunity to contribute effectively to your team’s success.

Joe Kay

Written by Joe Kay