In this episode we explore the heuristic known as groupthink, we find it hard to resist the pull of the group, and often end up conforming. There are actually two types of group think. Informative influence is when you are the non-expert and you trust that the group knows better. The other is normative influence: when you actually know better than the group, but you decide to conform rather than rock the boat. So while you publicly conform and go along with the group, when you’re away from the group you would actually think and behave differently.


The group as a whole will benefit from hearing dissenting views. Without them, you end up with catastrophes like the Bay of Pigs.

It happens most often in cohesive groups that don’t get a lot of outside views. It’s worse when there is a powerful, respected or important leader too. In the interest of group unity people willingly suppress their opinions. And sadly, often the first idea suggested by the leader will be adopted. One way to avoid this is to make sure your leader doesn’t say what their view of the situation is until they have heard from everyone else.

Whatever group you’re in, you want to encourage diversity as homogenous groups, insulated from outside opinions are the most susceptible to groupthink. So think about how you can diversify your group, or for significant decisions you might want to invite an outside expert, or have someone play the Devil’s Advocate, particularly if your group is too homogenous.


Check out the book ‘You’re About to Make a Terrible Mistake!’ by Olivier Sibony.

Watch the scene from ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ that demonstrates our tendency to conformity.

This video gives you an overview of the Milgram obedience experiment .

The 1995 study by Hogg and Vaughan found that conformity reaches its full extent with 3-5 person majority, with additional numbers after that have little effect

This video takes you through the Asch conformity experiment.

The 2015 McKinsey report ‘Why diversity matter’ highlights why we want diverse teams and management in particular.

Check out the great Harvard Business Review article ‘Why Diverse Teams are Smarter’.



Make sure the leader of your group speaks last.

Encourage diversity in your groups.

Let people answer individually or anonymously, before sharing with the group.


In our next episode we have our season finale! Which will be a great opportunity to refresh your memory about everything you’ve learned so far, and learn a few new things as well.

For more episodes and information about decision making head over to our website:

Tessa Mudge and Ken Smith

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