If you’re a leader who wants to get the best results from every meeting, then you know that you have to avoid groupthink or a ‘herd mentality’.
Groupthink happens when everybody in a meeting goes along with every decision, even if they disagree. Historically, this has led to some serious consequences for too many organizations around the world.
So in MLP #016 we’re going to explore some groupthink examples and help you learn how to avoid them, so you can optimize the results of all of the meetings that you lead.
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(:27) Skip intro Podcast content starts here!
(:56) Groupthink Overview Groupthink can cause a stock market crash and more
(2:04) Groupthink Example Ford Pinto
(3:57) Groupthink Example Non-Profit Board overspends on marketing
(4:41) Groupthink Suggestion #1 Gather a diversity of participants and opinions in meetings
(5:24) Groupthink Suggestion #2 Measure your results quickly so that the results of a Groupthink decision don’t last too long
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00:00 – Show Opening
Are you a professional who wants to become a more effective leader? Then get ready for daily tips from the coach with the experience, and inspiration to help you succeed in any leadership situation. You’re listening to the Meeting Leadership Podcast with Gordon Sheppard.
00:27 – Start Here – Podcast content starts here!
Gordon Sheppard Speaking
Welcome to another episode of the Meeting Leadership Podcast. My name is Gordon Sheppard, and I just want to say thanks. Thanks for taking time out of your valuable day, thanks for being the type of person that wants to build their leadership skills, and learn how to run highly effective meetings, and you’re choosing this podcast to do just that. Now, in this episode, we’re going to talk about a really important issue when it comes to meetings, because today, we’re going to talk about groupthink, or maybe what some people call herd mentality.
00:56 – Groupthink Overview – Groupthink can cause a stock market crash and more
Now on a large scale, this happens in the stock market all the time. Things catch on, people pour money in, the things get out of control, there’s a bubble, and then, there is a bust, right? It’s an example where herd mentality, groupthink drives things crazy, and the results are not good, but today, we’re going to pull that back from the large scale examples, and we’re going to look at groupthink examples you should avoid in meetings, and we’re going to talk about why, and kind of break them down, and help you really to not have them happen in the future.
01:28 – Groupthink Definition
But, before we really get into it, let’s start with a definition. Now, Wikipedia says this, “Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony, or conformity in the group results in an irrational, or dysfunctional decision making outcome.” Now, does this ring true for you? Is this the kind of thing that’s happening in your meetings? Are people sort of more wanting to kind of conform to each other than actually critically examine the situation that you’re in, and solve the problems that you’re trying to solve? What is the actual real cost of doing this?
02:04 – Groupthink Example – Ford Pinto
Well, like I said, at the beginning of this episode, let’s use some big examples, and small examples to talk about how to avoid that type of behavior in your meetings, and the first example that I want to talk about is the Ford Pinto. Now, this is a car that was built in the ’70s, and the big problem’s sort of mechanically, or the way it was built with this vehicle, was that the gas tank was located too far to the back, so then what would happen is, anytime there was a rear end collision with a Ford Pinto, the car would basically burst into flames.Now, Ford understood this, because this phenom took place over a period of seven, or eight years. I mean, many people died, there was many people injured as a result of this, but early on, Ford understood that this was a real problem. Now, in some of their meetings, what came out afterwards was the fact that they made some estimates about what the legal costs would be, versus the estimates to recall the vehicles, and repair them. The estimate for legal costs was like $50 million. They figured, “Well, if we get sued, or some people die, it’s going to cost us 50 million bucks.” And, the estimate for recall, which is bring all the vehicles back, and fix them, was 150 million dollars. Of course, now we can look back, and see what a disastrous thing that was, but you can imagine that in those meetings with all the different people that would have been in there to consult about which decision to make, there would have been some engineers, or people that really understood the implications of the safety issue, who knew to speak up, but they weren’t in a position to do that. They had to go along with the groupthink, they had to conform, they were probably trying to protect their jobs, or whatever that was, and the reality was deaths, the reality was critical injuries, and in the end, the real cost of that for Ford, the lawsuits were in the hundreds, and hundreds of millions of dollars, so that group thing did not work out for them.
03:57 – Groupthink Example – Non-Profit Board overspends on marketing
Let me take a second to dial it down from those large examples, and bring it right into the context of a non-profit board meeting that I’m aware of. Now, here’s the situation. The problem that was brought before the board was this, that non-profit was putting on live events, not many people were coming to the live events, and the board was tasked with figuring out how to get more people to come out, so they talked in earnest, and did their best as kind of volunteer board members to figure this out, and decided to spend $7, 000 on a newspaper ad. Well, that was absolutely the wrong use of those dollars at a time when you should be putting that into a social media plan, but they hadn’t done that. They spent money on the newspaper ad, nobody attended the events, and that money went down the drain.
04:41 – Groupthink Suggestion #1 – Gather a diversity of participants and opinions in meetings
It doesn’t matter if it’s at that large scale level, or at the local level. When you have groupthink, you can run into all kinds of problems. You can waste money, you can lose lives, you can compromise safety, and the list goes on, and on, and on. What do you want to do about it? Well, I really believe that you want to have critical thinking, and diversity in every meeting that you’re in, and here’s a couple of ways to do that. Look around your next meeting, and take an inventory of who’s there. Now, you have to be aware of kind of their beliefs, and where they’re coming from, and this kind of thing, and you want to make sure that you’ve got some people in the room who will speak up, and disagree when push comes to shove, and that way you know you’ll get stronger results when it comes to solving problems in meetings.
05:24 – Groupthink Suggestion #2 – Measure your results quickly so that the results of a Groupthink decision don’t last too long
The second thing that you want to do to challenge groupthink in your meetings, is measure your results. You want to measure your results quickly, and you want to measure them objectively. Now, if the people in your meeting can’t do it objectively, then you want to get some outside measurement for whatever decision that you’ve made. At that simple example that I gave before, if you said, “Well, we’re gonna spend thousands of dollars on a newspaper ad to get people out to an event.” Then, the rubber hits the road if people actually went out there, and it worked, and if it didn’t, you want to learn quickly, and move on so you don’t have any more losses.
05:56 – Groupthink Recap
If you’re the type of leader who wants to avoid a herd mentality, then in every meeting that you’re in, make sure you’ve got a balanced set of voices, make sure you have people with the ability to disagree, and then, be able to critically examine the decisions that you make. I also want to let you know that this episode of the Meeting Leadership Podcast is brought to you by the Meeting Leadership Academy. If you want to challenge yourself to grow your meeting leadership skills with solid live, and online training, then visit meetingleadershipinc.com/academy to learn more. As always, thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you tomorrow on the Meeting Leadership Podcast.
06:35 – Podcast Outro
Thanks for listening to the Meeting Leadership Podcast. Be sure to subscribe for more strategies to help you become an outstanding leader, and don’t forget to rate and review, so we can bring you fresh content every day. We’ll see you tomorrow, right here on the Meeting Leadership Podcast.
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