Reducing groupthink and improving decision-making in risk workshops

  • Groupthink is a psychological behaviour that impairs rational decision-making.
  • Structuring a risk workshop correctly and introducing anonymous voting are methods of improving engagement.
  • Mitigating groupthink will result in more accurate assessments of risk.

Risk workshops can be tricky events at the best of times. Even if one is successful at herding team members, managers and executives into rooms, it’s a challenge to get the engagement necessary for members to critically evaluate the assumptions underpinning risk and strategic outcomes. When it comes to assessing measures of Likelihood (L) and Consequence (C), the choices often succumb to the psychological phenomenon known as groupthink. This article outlines what groupthink is and how the Governance & Risk Team (GRT) at the Blue Mountains City Council (BMCC) used some simple techniques to mitigate it when conducting risk workshops.

Groupthink outlined

Many people have experienced a situation involving groupthink where, for the sake of harmony, group members strive to reach a consensus opinion. In many cases, members disregard their personal beliefs to agree with the dominant view. Even when members are opposed to the decisions of the group, they tend to keep quiet, preferring to keep the peace out of fear of isolation rather than disrupting the uniformity of the crowd1. Such behaviour results in sub-optimal choices and poor decision-making outcomes.

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