Watch Out for Groupthink

By David Ryback, Ph.D.

Consultants often hop on the bandwagon of their employer’s status thinking and neglect to challenge existing ways.  They often don’t appreciate the need for the Awareness Factor in business—what is going on out there in the marketplace, for instance—before leaping into new re-engineering makeovers.  In his book, Early Warnings, Ben Gilad refers to this blind delusion as “cocoonism,” where there is little awareness of the outside factors, allowing the Status Factor to reign supreme from within.

From Gilad’s point of view, overdependence on those consultants that aren’t up to par, sometimes going from one to another, results in a situation where there is less and less attention given to hearing the realities of the outside world.

“Powerful leaders evoke powerful mechanisms to explain away the facts, sustain the denial, and dismiss the signals from the outside world that don’t supports their views,” according to Gilad, in explaining his term, “industry dissonance.”  Once the Status Factor gets a critical mass going, often with the help of expensive but ineffective consultants, the Awareness Factor can get overrun.  Gilad maintains that “when reality and conviction are at odds with each other, conviction often wins.” The hierarchy-driven delusion can lead to groupthink, creating a blind spot where awareness would otherwise have its rightful place.  This is exactly the process that led to energy brokers at Enron to “stick it to Grandma” and to the ultimate demise of the organization.

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