When you think back upon your most successful teams – be it sports performance, work, or any other time in your life when you have been a part of a group with the same goal in mind – what were the factors that helped make the team a success? Of course, natural talent was probably part of the equation, but what group dynamics were present that allowed team members to reach their full potential, and as a result, helped the team succeed? (Sport Success 360).
Interestingly, when it comes to team success and getting the most out of each team member, everybody doesn’t have to get along all of the time. In fact, the term groupthink is defined as a type of thinking commonly seen in extremely cohesive groups where members are more interested in consensus than they are in critically thinking and testing out new ideas and strategies. In other words, when groupthink takes over, people stop being forward-thinking and creative, and instead tend to sit back and work toward team harmony over team success.
Studies in sports psychology show that when a team is too cohesive it will never reach its full potential, and that a little disharmony and discord can actually help in the long run. Drilling deeper, it’s perfectly fine to have team members challenge one another and not always agree! Ironically, it’s when people get too cozy with team members that critical thinking suffers, as does mental toughness, motivation, and perseverance.When kids are 5-6 years old prioritizing perfect team cohesion and harmony isn’t a bad thing, as it’s arguably more important at that age to teach strong interpersonal skills rather than push for win-at-all-cost mentalities. As kids age into adulthood, however, it is beneficial to learn about the negative impact of groupthink, and how it can dramatically hinder the growth and productivity of a team.
Even more important than sports teams, groupthink is a potential problem for all groups of people involved in working together, be it work teams, school teams, or volunteer teams.So can a team become too cozy? The answer is YES! If you are a team leader, coach, or captain, be sure to create a team environment that includes as many of the following if you want to maximize the potential from all team members:
- Allow all team members the right to question and challenge other team members opinions
- Encourage team members to come up with additional ideas beyond the first ones presented
- Keep an “open door” policy and encourage team members to always look for ways to improve team conditions
- Encourage healthy debate (different than simply arguing), where a variety of different opinions can be shared freely and without negative repercussions
- Remind team members that groupthink can kill an otherwise talented team!