The Perils of Groupthink
and How to Avoid It.
Groupthink is defined as a "mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members' strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically alternative courses of action" (Janis 9). The Bay of Pigs invasion, the escalation of the Vietnam War, and the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger have all been attributed to groupthink. Unfortunately, groupthink is usually attributed to government debacles even though the production of New Coke® and the Ford Edsel are considered to be the fruits of corporate groupthink. Luckily, groupthink is easily avoided if preventative measures are taken and group members constantly check for it.
. The Bay of Pigs incident is widely considered to be the biggest foreign policy blunder in the history of the United States. The leaders of the operation were qualified and extremely capable of carrying out this type of operation. However, it was so poorly planned and implemented that it had absolutely no chance of success. The plan was based almost entirely on bad intelligence and false assumptions. Among the deluded assumptions were that the Cuban people would welcome the invasion, Cuba's military was not capable of handling the invasion attempt, and that the United States could deny any involvement. So, why did a group of individuals who should have known that the plan had no chance of succeeding proceed to carry it out? The group planning the operation was a victim of groupthink. Groupthink is the breakdown of group communication that leads to a lack of creativity and poor decision making. The group members failed to properly appraise the situation despite information being available that ran contrary to the assumptions being made. The planners of the Bay of Pigs fell victim to the pressures of uniformity and saw themselves as invulnerable to possible fallout from the situation.
Cited: Janis, Irving. Groupthink 2nd Ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1982.
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Thompson, Leigh., Eileen Aranda, and Stephen P. Robbins. Tools for Teams: Building Effective Teams in the Workplace.Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2000.
Wade, Carole., and Carol Tavris. Psychology. 7th Ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2003.
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