Recently, President elect Barack Obama
was discussing his decisions for inclusion of persons with diverse opinions in his staff and he made this statement: “One of the dangers in a White House, based on my reading of history, is that you get wrapped up in groupthink, and everybody agrees with everything, and there's no discussion and there are not dissenting views.”
The National Nursing Network Organization has learned firsthand with the Office of the National Nurse initiative that such "groupthink" phenomenon, the adoption of words, phrases and viewpoints that are initially expressed by someone else, and then become the norm or the supported position, is a factor in professional nursing organizations. Organizations will "sign-on" to adopt or reject a position because it is perceived to be supported by all those in a respected leadership status. Often times, additional leaders as well as rank and file members are provided no opportunity to dissent and thus have little inclination to seek an objective analysis. Without encouraging discussion, surveying members, or assuring solicitation and analysis of opposing viewpoints, 'groupthink' can polarize around an initial popular viewpoint, even when this viewpoint is, in reality, simply the initial assessment of a few individuals. Then, because it is described as the Position
of a respected professional organization, the groupspeak platform is adopted and defended by similar organizations, without any opposition, dialog, investigation, analysis or critical thinking. It is reminiscent of the popular cliche' "I have made up my mind, don't confuse me with the facts."
So why does "groupspeak" occur? Is it due to a basic human tendency to "sign on" to assure personal inclusion in the group and avoid being shunned. Or in today's busy pace, is it simply expedient, and groupspeak is embraced rather than expending the time and energy to pursue a thorough analysis of all perspectives and incorporate an objective decision making process. Adopting groupspeak also minimizes confrontation, and many people have an aversion to discussions that are argumentative or represent opposing views and take passionate dialog as a personal assault. Yet this is exactly what is needed--healthy sharing of differing viewpoints, time to dialog and hear others' perceptions, and opportunity to share and reach agreement.
It is reassuring to consider the Obama administration will have the advantage of diverse viewpoints and will be an environment that weighs issues objectively to reach a true consensus. Minimizing "groupspeak" is one way leadership of nursing organizations could improve their performance, gain credibility with rank and file members, and could positively impact decisions that will have far reaching implications for healthcare reform.
The National Nursing Network Organization Team—Monday, December 08, 2008