Groupthink is Almost Inevitable and Its Effects Can Be Catastrophic 

Groupthink has major downside potential and needs to be handled with foresight, practicality, and patience. Interestingly, it usually causes groups to believe it's not a problem and its effects go unchecked.

It is something that can't really be stopped. It can and should be managed. Unfortunately most people are so self-identified with ego-mind, which is the cause of groupthink, its effects run rampant in groups both large and small. Religious intolerance, racism, social injustice, warfare, and conflicts between groups are its consequences.

I may be immune to the effects of groupthink which may be a liability. When employed in any organization large or small, and especially large, it's easier to get along when you buy into the group's B.S.

Following is my favorite groupthink experience.

Back in 1983 I was the bookstore officer (BSO) in the Church of Scientology Organization in Santa Barbara, California. I was not a Scientologist when working at the org as BSO. Non-Scientologists were permitted to be officers in orgs because it was assumed they'd inevitably become Scientologists because Scientology was thought by Scientologists to be so wonderful. Mostly this wonderfulness is noticeable only to other Scientologists.

I soon noticed flaws in Scientology. The senior leaders at the org who were allegedly "clear" clearly weren't "clear" which was the goal of all Scientologists. These leaders were as driven by human foibles as anyone. Some were much more driven and were clearly mentally ill.

A funny observation involved the communal kitchen at the org. There were about half a dozen refrigerators in the kitchen and everyone was assigned to one. Scientologists are supposed to have high ethical standards. They were constantly arguing and fussing over food theft.

I also noticed that Scientology appeared to be mostly a profit motivated institution. They used very obvious conditioning techniques that could be characterized as brainwashing to program their recruits into believing they needed more Scientology training. The Church of Scientology charged a lot of money for this training.

I never became a Scientologist and things started to get tense over the issue. I parted ways with them when it got uninteresting.

L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, adapted a bunch of stuff and renamed it to make people think it was his own idea. One of these was groupthink. Hubbard referred to it as the group bank, the bank, and people who were afflicted by it as "banky."

As bookstore officer I had access to Hubbard's books and read them. The book about the group bank detailed all the negative consequences of groupthink very clearly.

Scientology was full of problems associated with the group bank as Hubbard called it. Examples were everywhere. They had Hubbard's book and still couldn't help themselves. Let this story be a lesson.

What's Groupthink Look Like?

Here are some of its characteristics.

  • Excessive optimism and risk taking because the group believes it is invulnerable to other people's rules.
  • Behavior that ignores consequences because the group thinks it is morally superior.
  • Vigorous dismissal of any information that conflicts with the group's assumptions.
  • Alienation of any nonconforming group members and vilifying them spitefully.
  • Members are afraid to give their honest opinions so they say nothing.
  • Leaders assume the lack of dissenting opinions means everyone is in agreement.
  • Nonconforming members are forced to conform or be alienated from the group.
  • Their is a condition of insularity that prevents the group from learning of information that conflicts with the group's beliefs. 

It's Going to Be a Part of Any Group.
If Nobody Works to Limit Its Consequences Negative Outcomes May Be the Result.

This behavior is going to be around forever and it's best just to be aware of it and act accordingly. Religious groups are as likely and maybe more likely to get caught up in it. Maybe because people tend to disassociate from people who don't belong to their religious group unless it's absolutely necessary. Humans will be humans after all.

It's an ego-mind thing. Belief in separation and fear of the other are what's at the bottom of it. Let's be just mindful of it, carry on, and take steps to counteract its effects when possible.

NLP or neurolinguistic programming has something called the language and behavior profile or as they refer to it, the LAB profile. Shelle Rose Charvet wrote a very good easy to understand book about it.

The LAB profile can help you understand group dynamics and individual behavior patterns. It can help you choose group members who will give you an honest opinion even when the rest of the group have a differing opinion. Groupthink is an important issue that's often overlooked.

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