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Crushing Groupthink in Pursuit of Safety: The team was tasked to produce a full day of training to accomplish multiple objectives, engage a tough audience, and move the needle of safety and professionalism for a very large organization. Oh, and we had about half the time to put the entire program together that it would normally take to do it well.

Labor reps, management types, and your humble outside consultant team sat down and got to work. As you might expect, almost immediately there was conflict of interests and ideas, but through the pure force of focus on the objective, we were able to set aside our feelings and one and all took turns pulling spears our of our chests, putting on our big kids pants, and grinding forward. The result was an on-time curriculum that combined the best practices from CRM, personal accountability, threat and error management, role modeling and mentoring, and holistic professionalism.

Dangers of Groupthink!

In a short period of time, we went from solo artists to an orchestra, and man did it feel good. Here are three big insights I picked up along the way: Non-assertiveness and a desire to go along with most any idea presented prevent team members from suggesting their own improvements or criticizing or commenting on the ideas of others.

It eats up time and dulls creativity. Our team got past this quickly, but it took some effort. Our team learned early to take personal agenda losses with a grain of salt, and move forward to the next challenge without carrying grudges.

Crushing Groupthink in Pursuit of Safety: A Case Study

Groupthink results in many potential contributions or solutions never being placed on the table for evaluation or inclusion in the plan. At worst, the groupthink process reaches a point where the final decision is one that is not supported by anyone in the group, and the team succumbs to the emotional need to complete the task without any conflict.

We recognized this trap from the start, gave every idea a fair shake, and did not settle for mediocrity. Checklist for Recognition and Prevention of Groupthink Talk about groupthink up front. This opens the door for others. Treat pros and cons of ideas equally, particularly if it is your idea under discussion.

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After nearly six months of hard work, our program hit the street. I think I can speak for all members of the team when I say we were all a little nervous on how it would be received. Here is one critique from an experienced pilot who went through the training. On my flight home from WA, I felt like I should have a survival knife clenched in my teeth just begging for a crash so I could use my new skills.

The future is looking good. After a collective sigh of relief following the first week of training, we got back to work refining the product to make it even better. This type of collaborative effort has become the exception—not the rule—in many committee style efforts. But from what I learned from this effort, it need not be so.