One of the obstacles to creative thinking our team at Cooke Media Group often encounters is “groupthink.” It happens when the team at a church, ministry, or nonprofit all thinks alike. There are many reasons groupthink happens:
- A leader who demands that everything be done his or her way.
- A pliable team that just wants to “get along.”
- An overriding philosophy that “we’ve always done it this way.”
- A culture that’s grown out of an experience of being burned by a bad project or idea.
- A leader who’s a micromanager.
- A culture that takes “respect” too far, and assumes anything a leader says is sacred.
- A culture that believes conflict is always a negative thing.
There’s more reasons, but every single one is a mistake. Wikipedia describes “groupthink” like this: “Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within groups of people, in which the desire for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic appraisal of alternatives. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints. …The primary socially negative cost of groupthink is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking.”
Re-read the last line of the Wikipedia definition: “The primary socially negative cost of groupthink is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking.”
Bottom line: As groupthink increases, your individual creativity decreases. As a result, the overall creativity decreases as well, and eventually the organization becomes irrelevant.
The Bible teaches us that unity is critical, and it’s understandable that many Christians assume this extends to the workplace – sometimes in the extreme. But unity doesn’t mean thinking alike or giving up our unique identity. Disagreement, debate, and even conflict fuels great ideas and accomplishments.
Francis Phillip Wernig said, “The person who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before.”
If you’re in a groupthink culture, the question you have to ask yourself is – Is this worth it? Is constant harmony, continual agreement, and slave-like obedience worth the loss of your identity? Is is worth the loss of your creativity?
If not, then it may be time to either lead a revolt, or move to an organization that values who you are – not just how well you fit in.