Collaborative decision-making can be a powerful tool, but leaders should take care to ensure teams are engaging in critical thinking and not succumbing to groupthink.

When an important decision needs to be made at work, it’s often our first instinct to call together a group of minds to tackle the problem. After all, two – or five, or 10 – heads are better than one, right?

When a group dynamic leaves teams reluctant to challenge the ideas on the table, the desire for consensus can lead to narrow-mindedness and poor decision-making – a phenomenon also known as ‘groupthink’.

Perhaps they do not want to rock the boat, they do not want to be laughed at, they don’t want to seem like they don’t know as much as their colleagues do, or they do not want to be seen as a smarty pants.

For all sorts of reasons, people will land on a wrong answer early, and then everybody just gets really aligned behind that wrong answer.”

There are a number of ways to keep groupthink under control. Below I have shared 3 for your consideration but there may be other suitable options based on your workplace culture.

Cultivate an environment where people feel safe sharing their views

To prevent groupthink arising in team settings, a leader’s most important goal should be creating a dynamic where everyone feels safe to express their point of view and speak up when they have questions or contradictory view.

They also need to ensure there is equal opportunity for people to contribute to the meeting.

Assemble diverse groups for decision-making

If the key to group decision-making is to leverage more than one perspective, it is critical to assemble employees from different backgrounds and departments of the business.

We need people with demographic diversity as well as functional diversity bringing perspectives from different levels and areas of the organisation, which will help teams make well-informed, strategic decisions.

Appoint a devil’s advocate

To counteract a groupthink dynamic created by ‘yes’ people, organisations can designate a ‘no’ person, or a devil’s advocate.

The role of the devil’s advocate is to take a more critical perspective to the ideas on the table, presenting contrary opinions and asking important questions about issues that may arise as a result of the decision.

It is important for this person to be skilled in this artform as there are right and wrong ways to employ the devil’s advocate model in a workplace context.

The devil’s advocate works when the role is rotated, and everybody knows they’re going to take a turn. It’s not about being a crank and trying to derail everything – it’s their role in that meeting.

In order for the devil’s advocate position to be successful, you must have a robust culture where people understand the devil’s advocate is being hard on the problem and not hard on the people.

If companies can adopt these simple steps, they will move a long way to innovative and creative results delivering improved operational efficiency and profit growth.