Conversational Paradigm LO5919

Mariann Jelinek (
Thu, 29 Feb 1996 17:20:41 -0500

Replying to LO5761 --

John Zavacki wrote:

>There is a "good" groupthink and a "bad" groupthink. In process
>improvement and problem solving activities, it is the "good" group
>thinking eliminating the obvious that creates breakthrough. The
>discipline of a group using force fields, fishbones, and facts to look at
>the situation outside of the obvious ("bad" group thinking) folkways and
>mores of the organization (read: we tried that before; that'll never
>work; that machine's no good; that guy does it on purpose; etc.) is just
>what's needed to break the conversational paradigm and put forth the

Right on, John: "good" or "bad," eliminating an "obvious" that's
useful or one that's an impediment to solving problems effectively,
"groupthink" is shared-paradigm thinking, and when it's transcended the
opportunity arises to understand differently. It's interesting to me that
such transcendence isn't always embraced by the group, especially at
first. On this bulletin board, we hope a learning organization would be
open minded to examine the utility of new ways to see; a central issue
among us continues to be how to induce such transcendence, and thus how to
deal with the resistance, misunderstanding, etc. that preemptively dismiss
thinking beyond groupthink's limitations.
Your examples are good ones, and underline that to think together
as a group can be good or bad, although the Janis original description of
groupthink suggested it was a form of thinking with a limp. I especially
appreciated your phrase, "the discipline of a group using [fill in the
tool]." Seems to me this points to how groups might explicitly acknowledge
and comprehend the limits of their practice, based on an understanding of
the limits of the tool. Then, as tool limits are external, group members
might more easily and less defensively react to suggestions for
alternative approaches ("Let's change tools," instead of "you are wrong").
This idea of the limits of any particular discipline is nicely made in THE
DISCIPLINE OF MARKET LEADERS, where strategic focus is advised because
trying to be all things to all people will result in strategic mediocrity:
the cost leadership focused company's infrastructure and culture will be
inappropriate for seeking customer intimacy or technological leadership.
It's a useful idea, which also has limits (what about multidivisional
companies? - synergy and integration? - markets that change over time as
what was once technological leadership is duplicated, and price-quality
become more salient?
Thanks for your comment - it sent me on a useful path for some
problems I'm contemplating!


Sam J.

Mariann Jelinek, Ph.D. Richard C. Kraemer Professor of Business Graduate School of Business Administration College of William and Mary Williamsburg, VA 23185

FAX: (804) 229-6135

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