Beware the dark side of consensus

Creating consensus is one of the most important steps in organizing a successful team. But it has a dark side.

Consensus is when every team member is on the same page. When everyone is facing the same direction they acquire a sense of collective purpose. They find meaning in their work and are deeply engaged with each other and with their work. Personal and professional bonds grow stronger when consensus is in the air.

At TSG, we can speak to the power of consensus (and lack of power when it’s missing) from our own experience. Check out this blog to see what we wrote about generating consensus. To be fair, we thought we’d peek at the dark side of consensus.

Put simply – it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Too much consensus creates groupthink wherein every team member agrees with each other.

Groupthink can stifle new ideas when it goes too far. If everyone thinks the same way, the team misses learning opportunities and lacks authentic feedback. They may waste their time rehashing old ideas instead of creating innovative new ones.

Groupthink can make team members afraid to voice their concerns. It prevents honest communication and suppresses people’s self expression.

Confronting groupthink starts by speaking up about your concerns. Initially, this conversation can occur as intimidating. But once you get present to the impact of not speaking up, you will engage fearlessly. After all, the impact of not engaging is the group making a blunder and dragging everyone down.

Speaking up provides the group with valuable feedback that it may be missing and gives the group an opportunity to coach the concerned members. Expressing these concerns helps people clear space to create something new and fresh.

That being said, don’t get carried away blaming others for your problems. Before confronting the group, take responsibility for what you can address on your own. Ask for feedback and consider that you may be missing some information.

Here are a few tips for combating groupthink among your team:

1. Overcome your reactions of impatience or irritation with team members who disagree. Consider that they may have something highly valuable to inform you.

2. Don’t maintain the peace. Let opposing views clash in the open so that all sides have the opportunity to make their case.

3. Designate dissenters. So called “red-teams” can simulate adversarial views and challenge groupthink.

How do you confront groupthink in your business? Drop us a comment below.