Groups get people to conform. They cannot exist if people do whatever they want. Those who do not conform leave. If not they do not share as much in rewards. There are many ways groups do this. Is collaboration one of them? It helps groups come up with ideas. It then helps them agree on action. Is collaboration groupthink though?
For example, collaboration has a coercive aspect. Dosed out in large amounts it stops us from doing our jobs. It benefits us then to agree quickly so we can do our jobs.
Hype Around “Is Collaboration Groupthink?”
Susan Cain made hay when she answered the question, “Is collaboration groupthink?” by saying, “yes,” in The New York Times in early 2012. Later that year, Vijay Govindarajan and Jay Terwilliger responded in Harvard Business Review with, “Yes, You Can Brainstorm Without Groupthink.”
They gave three caveats though. Our team must be diverse. We need a facilitator. We need to “encourage passionate champions” of ideas. These will thwart problematic personalities who tend to move collaboration to groupthink. It is not a democratic process though.
The reason for this is simple: again, groups get people to conform. It is the way of nature. Unless there is a leader guiding the collaboration, it will be groupthink.
The key is how to do this. Govindarajan and Terwilliger endorse different styles. That means each collaboration could have a different look, different steps.
For instance, J. Michael Fox had told me that their group’s research found that extroverts and introverts brainstorm differently. Extroverts tend to come up with long lists of ideas. Introverts tend to think about ideas first then give what they think are the best they have to offer. People also differ on their like for structure.
Is Collaboration Groupthink?
So, is collaboration groupthink? It seems it depends on how it goes. What is certain is that it requires work to make sure it is not. That work is leadership.
That means those who manage collaborative efforts must be skilled at it. This means knowing how to manage diverse teams. Otherwise, collaboration is just talk. It is dangerous talk too. Left to its own devices, collaboration is groupthink. It needs leaders to work.