Today’s ponderings – as so many previous ones – arises out of a casual comment over the weekend. I was discussing the progress of Trischel with someone I hadn’t met before and I mentioned that we had unanimity of purpose. “Ah” he said wisely “Groupthink!” and moved on.

Now, I have blogged on ‘Groupthink’ to some purpose previously, see May’s contribution in the archives, and I know what it looks like. And it looks nothing like the energised and noisy battleground that makes up the Trischel meeting room!

Actually, personally I consider that they are an argumentative lot, far too fond of their own opinions and with little hope of reconciling them to a wiser point of view! Groupthink, on the other hand, occurs only when the unity of the group becomes more important than the proper discussion of the problem. Proper discussion is a byword in Trischel – we are after all in the personal communication business – and everyone has a point of view; and quite rightly too.

Trish and I, while partners and with a clear vision of where we intend Trischel to be in five years time, often have differing ideas on how to get there. We both have different strengths and sometimes similar weaknesses; but having worked together for over ten years we have a healthy respect for each other’s ability. But that doesn’t mean to say that we are always in agreement like a couple of Pollyannas!! Pity poor Judi – our administrator – who has to try and keep order. Groupthink? Not on your life.

Then there’s the backroom boys, especially Joe, who looks after all our resources and arranges bookings and makes travel arrangements. A somewhat quiet type, but with a definite mind of his own. Even when the principles have come to a consensus, it’s no use expecting Joe to acquiesce quietly. With a few carefully chosen words he can demolish a delicate compromise and it’s back to the drawing board.

Groupthink is where one person’s views and opinions are readily accepted without any real discussion of the outcomes or consequences; where the delicate balance of unity within the group becomes the most important consideration. Joe has no such scruples. He will vigorously point out the stupidity of some of our decisions and paint a depressing picture of the certain disaster awaiting us if we continue down this misconceived road. No – he’s not a miserable so-and-so – just our black hat thinker.

Indeed, he is not alone in this either. Every organisation needs a willing ‘gofer’ and we have Peter. Peter is willing and active, and doesn’t mind running hither and yonder to take things somewhere and bring other things back. He is ready to run errands for us at any time of the day (but balks a little at night) – but opinionated? Oh yes!! He, like the other backroom boy, is always willing to give us the benefit of his thoughts, even if we haven’t actually asked for them.

Judi – mentioned before – has the difficult job of keeping Trish and I on track and to the agenda. Quietly efficient and accommodating, you would think that one would be spared the aggravation of having to defend the ideas and opinions of the principals, wouldn’t you? Well you would be wrong. Quick to notice when one of our brilliant suggestions will bring chaos to the admin systems she is ruthless in demolishing some of our more ‘creative’ ideas. And my misguided ship-in-the-night thinks this is an example of ‘Groupthink’?

Let me explain again, Groupthink occurs when opposition to the leader’s ideas is actively discouraged – when those who raise doubts and difficulties are shunned and outlawed from the group. Shun and outlaw Judi ? You must be joking! Chance would be a fine thing – Judi makes the tea and bring the cakes. She has an important and integral role in the group and she is far too important to risk alienating with Groupthink.

And finally there’s Mike, who flies in unexpectedly and casts a jaundice eye over our proceedings. He then, with a few choice words, reduces us all to infancy, and flies out again just avoiding the teapot that flashes past his ear.

My new acquaintance obviously had little true knowledge of the insidious effects of Groupthink if he thought that the staff at Trischel willingly and quietly accepts the ideas and opinion of the two principals without question.

As I said, they are an argumentative lot; opinionated, self-confident and assertive. They have definite ideas on how we should go about our business, and they have often kept Trish and I from making some hideous mistakes. It may make for a rowdy and excitable meeting room, but long may it continue – it is an essential part of our success.

Groupthink? Never heard of it.

Michele @ Trischel

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