by Rollin Glaser

Available in both Online and Paper-Based Format

The term "groupthink" has become a standard way of describing a special phenomenon that can and does occur in groups. If a group experiences groupthink, it has developed a set of shared perspectives that may be unrealistic but are strongly supported by the members of the group. The GroupThink Index helps teams gauge the effectiveness of their decision-making progress - and catch hidden tendencies toward hasty, lazy, or self-satisfied group thinking.


The phenomenon of groupthink seems to develop as a group becomes more cohesive and less critical of its own decisions. For example, a group may decide on a plan of action that a few of the members propose and support. Without a debate or critical thinking, the rest of the group goes along with this plan because its concern for unanimity and solidarity outweighs its desire to discuss other, and perhaps more valid, points of view.

The danger to any group is that the quality of a decision may be weak, yet the group strongly believes in the correctness of its position and ignores conflicting views. The end result may be a decision of such poor quality that it fails to achieve its intended purpose or creates other more serious problems.


The author facilitated a team building session with a senior management team. It was the afternoon of the second day and the learning experience had gone exceptionally well. People who had barely spoken to one another before the program now shared their hopes and dreams with the entire team. They had clearly reached a new level of team development, a stage of good feelings, esprit de corps, and closeness.

Then the group undertook a standard consensus exercise. It was a survival problem in which a limited number of available items must be used creatively if the group is to survive. The group members approached their work with excitement and determination. They were now a team and nothing could stop them. Unfortunately, they were so eager to agree with one another that they accepted weak rationales for items without thinking critically of challenging the assumptions on which they were based.

Of course, the results were disastrous, and they were disappointed with themselves and with their performance. What could have gone wrong? The author sensed it was the new level of cohesiveness that got in their way. They had worked so hard during the previous day-and-a-half that they did not want to disagree over what seemed to be a relatively unimportant project. They went along with one another to preserve the group's unity, and the results were far less than they were capable of achieving.

If only there was some way to help them understand the positive and negative effects of cohesiveness. Other than explaining the concept of groupthink, there was no convincing tool. After the session the author resolved to create an instrument that could help groups break out of the pleasant state of good feelings they often achieve. It was important to move them to a state of interdependence where challenges to group members could have the effect of stimulating greater group effort, not tearing down what they had already built.

How And When To Administer GroupThink Index

The GTI is used most effectively in the context of a team development intervention. It is appropriate for senior management teams, project teams, cross-functional teams, self-managing teams, and a variety of other teams. Because the concept of groupthink is a more sophisticated notion of what can go wrong in group decision making, it is not useful for all teams. Teams benefiting from this instrument will have a higher level of education, experience, and skill, in addition to being more mature in their interpersonal relationships. The facilitator will need to make a careful assessment of the team and its members before introducing the GroupThink Index.