Thursday, 28 September 2017

groupthink; reaching a consensus; dysfunctional decision-making outcomes

Yesterday I received an Email from an academic which seemed to be, yet again, promoting "groupthink", a misrepresentation of groupwork, with the aim of silencing independent, survivor voices.

"Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences." Wikipedia

Here is what the senior academic said:

"I don’t want the group to feel rushed, but that we can take the time we need. If the group collectively feel that we can briefer then we will do what the group needs." (bolding is mine)

The "group" mentioned consists of academics, mental health survivors and carers.  I've been a member of this group, since 2011, having left for a spell due to feeling marginalised and fodder for research.

In my experience of this group it's the academics who dominate the discourse and silence voices at will.  It happened at a meeting this week.  The survivor voices were shut down.  They can't seem to help but close conversations and redirect.  It's the culture and learned behaviour.  I think they also teach this, practise it, in their relationships with others, which is concerning and one of the reasons as to why I've come back into this group and will persist with speaking out independently.

In my response to this academic I said:

"it's about the person in the group. About keeping everyone onboard.

Think about ways of involving each of us as an individual. We each have different strengths and abilities. .."

and 

"The gist of my argument was about being accommodating to the person before the group."

To which the academic responded:


"I see my approach to this as attempting to bring along every individual who is a member ..., giving them the opportunity to engage with the curriculum."


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I am still concerned that Clinical Psychologists (CPs) in Scotland may be more concerned about the group than about the person.  That was my experience in Fife, from 2003 until 2012, engaging with NHS Fife CPs, as a patient, a carer, a colleague.  They didn't appear to see me as an equal.  Rather it felt that in their eyes I was "less than".

That's a problem which requires attention, in my opinion.  

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Groupthink by Irving L Janis, 1971

"The main principle of groupthink, which I offer in the spirit of Parkinson's Law, is this: The more amiability and esprit de corps there is among the members of a policy-making ingroup, the greater the danger that independent critical thinking will be replaced by groupthink, which is likely to result in irrational and dehumanizing actions directed against outgroups."


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