The decision making process is one of the most challenging issues in the society especially where the decision to be made affects other people directly. Yet this does not mean that the place of decision-making in the society should be ignored. Instead, the society or rather community has to find a way of making decisions in a way that deems fit to such a society in order to maintain a coherent relationship among its members. There are various theories that have been formulated to examine the decision-making process in the society where more than one person is involved, i.e. group. Among these theories is Groupthink theory. This research paper will study Groupthink theory and why it is important in the society.
The quality of decisions and the decision-making process among groups in the society remains as an issue of concern. As a result of this, Irvin Janis, after extensive research and study of groups in the 1970s, developed a theory that focused on how decisions were made in groups during the brainstorming sessions. He referred to this theory as Groupthink theory which examines the reasoning behind groups or rather teams and how these groups or teams are able to emerge with one of the best decisions at one particular moment and a very poor decision the next moment. Therefore, Groupthink theory can be defined as a theory that studies the ability of a group to make decisions that are sound and yet still be in a position of maintaining cohesiveness. Whereas there have been resistance to Groupthink and Groupthink theory, there are different kinds of researchers that have found out that Groupthink can be of core value in the process of decision-making among groups, and as a result presents critical evidence that shows that Groupthink, as much as it may be disregarded, is an important decision-making process in the society.
This research found out that despite the negative criticism that Groupthink theory has received in the past, there are issues in the society and specifically among team or rather groups that demands that the theory of Groupthink is utilized. According to Steiner (2004), Groupthink played a critical role in the decision-making process in different groups in the past (p.13-18). Steiner (2004) affirms that Groupthink theory played an important role during the Falkland crisis and this theory greatly affected the foreign policy decisions that were made in regard to this crisis (p.21-26). It is important for one to understand that issues such foreign policies of different nations work best when the decisions of groups are employed rather than individual decisions. In this line of thought, the rescue of the United States hostages held in Iran in 1979 was based on a Groupthink decisions. Though the mission failed, the end result saw the release of the American hostages that had been held for 444 days (Steiner, 2004, p.15-20).
Groupthink theory has also been found to affirm the commitment of members in small groups that are determined to accomplish a particular task. In reference to Haslam et al. (2006), there is a collective responsibility that is imparted in the minds of members of a group once the decisions they are making are done in their group rather than on an individual level (p.607-612). For example, when a team decides to introduce a new system of management that would oversee an enhancement of the team’s strength in their work, each member will exhibit a higher level of responsibility as compared to a team whereby the decisions are made elsewhere and then acted upon by the group. One of the factors that contribute to this commitment is the ownership of the decisions that are made by the group. As a result of this, the group can be able to achieve its goals without having to struggle with the issues that arise from divisions in the group due to lack of commitment and ownership of the group’s vision. According to Haslam (2006), the research by Janis found out that an individual found it easier to yield to the demands of the group easily than the way they yielded to individual decisions (p.608).
The critics of Groupthink theory were also found to be inclined towards the fact that Groupthink as a way of making decisions in most cases resulted in poor outcomes due to the fact that important aspects of the decisions that were made such as the risks involved were ignored by the group once a unanimous conclusion had been reached. However, as was found out by Chen, Tsai & Shu (2009), most of the failures of the decisions that had been made by group through Groupthink process occurred due to inappropriate antecedent conditions (p.137-140). Nevertheless, Chen, Tsai & Shu (2009) asserted that Groupthink has the capability of producing excellent results too (p.147-152). They noted there are various factors that need to be implemented to create an appropriate environment that would allow for a healthy decision-making process by a group (p.148-153).
Defective behaviors or rather moral decay in the society has always been attributed to the influence of the group. It has been argued in the past that bad company spoils good morals. However, there is little research that has been carried out in the past to examine the effect of groups on promoting good morals in the society. This is particularly true in regard to sexuality whereby, while group influence can result in immoral behavior among teenagers and young adults, the reverse effect too applies whereby groups can decide on guarding their sexual appetites as a whole rather than as individuals. According to Jackson, Gilliland & Veneziano (2006), whereas individual affiliation to a certain group has been cited as one of the causes of sexual deviance on campuses, groups can also play a critical role in restraining from sexual deviance among their members (p.449-454).
The Groupthink theory also plays a very important role in big institutions such as academic institutions. As a result, these institutions have been found to employ the principles of Groupthink theory in their daily activities. In citing an example to the application of Groupthink theory in these institutions, Klein & Stern (2009) presents an academic model that does not rely on individual decisions but rather on group decisions in executing certain task within its environment (p.587-592). For example, when hiring staff or firing them, academic institutions does not depend on the decisions of the head of department as an individual but rather on all members that are leading such a department. As a result of this, Klein & Stern (2009) disregards the fact that Groupthink is ineffective in delivering important decisions in the society and instead argue that academic institutions are an exception (p.586-591). Their argument is based on the fact that the conclusions in regard to the weaknesses of Groupthink theory have been made without examining an environment similar to academic institutions.
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Groupthink theory therefore is one of the most important theories of decision-making process among groups. However, this theory has faced a lot of criticism, with researchers arguing that it is ineffective since it suppresses individual decision-making processes leading to a retarded mindset in regard to decision-making process by individuals. Despite these arguments, there are different setups that have found this decision-making process to be viable and thus an essential tool of dealing with the decision-making processes among their groups.