Groupthink among law department managers, and a few antidotes

A classic book, Groupthink by Irving Janis, studied the US Cabinet-level decision-making before the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. “Groupthink” has come to summarize a congeries of characteristics that lead to bad decisions. Meetings of legal leadership teams can suffer from groupthink. These maladies include “a premature sense of ostensible unanimity, suppression of personal doubts and of expression of contrary views, and the group leader … guiding the discussion in such a way as to minimize disagreement.”

This summary of groupthink comes from Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (Penguin Books 2005) at 439. Diamond recommends more productive decision-making such as “ordering participants to think skeptically, allowing discussion to be freewheeling, having some groups meet separately, and occasionally [the leader] leaving the room to avoid his overly influencing the discussion himself.”

Good ideas, all, for law departments that don’t want to become decision lemmings (See my post of Dec. 8, 2006 about the general counsel’s chilling effect.).

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