Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people (think focus group) in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.
Group think often occurs when there is a time constraint and individuals put aside personal doubts so a project can move forward or when one member of the group dominates the decision-making process.
Focus groups are ideal when you want to gain multiple perspectives in an interactive group setting. But, one of the things that can happen in focus groups is “group think.” The first person starts off on a tangent and then the entire room goes along with that first opinion.
When you are running groups, be mindful of the potential of group think:
- Devils advocates – If the group is all agreeing a bit to quickly and easily, throw in a few ‘opposite’ ideas, otherwise known as devils’ advocates.
- Challenge the group leader – Subtly undermine the alpha character in the group in order to give others more chance of having their say.
- Get personal – As group member how the groupthink opinions will impact on the personally and directly to help them take a more individual approach to the subject matter.
Focus groups and a quick and easy way for brands and retailers to get opinions from shoppers and consumers. But because of biases such as groupthink, don’t overvalue the opinions of too small a sample of people or groups.