Winston Churchill's Special Department (To Avoid Groupthink)

In Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success, you learn all about a fixed versus growth mindset. This is a psychological theory put forward by Dweck that challenges fixed ways of thinking and approaching situations. 

On the one hand, a fixed mindset refers to the belief that one is born with inherent talents and traits, and that these predetermine what we will and will not be good at. People with this kind of mindset avoid learning and growing from mistakes and failures, considering this futile.

On the other hand, however, is the growth mindset, which is about just that: growth. People with this kind of mindset think that intelligence and talent can only grow with practice and learning. So, they are able to change their outcomes and change failures into successes.

As Winston Churchill once said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

Groupthink In Relation To Mindset Theory

Dweck proposes in her book that it is the latter kind of mindset that can and will allow for further growth and development - both for individuals as well as for groups. 

So, what does groupthink have to do with it? Groupthink is a widely researched psychological phenomenon whereby groups of people, driven by their desire for cohesion, avoid straying from the norm. They put unlimited faith in a single leader, and do not oppose their decisions in any way. This discourages critique and out-of-the-box problem-solving.

Essentially, groupthink is informed and created by people with fixed mindsets. Think about it - people with growth mindsets would rather approach situations with the willingness to think outside of the box. But people with fixed mindsets are more likely to avoid challenges and opportunities for learning and growth.


Winston Churchill: An Example

Winston Churchill’s ‘Special Department’ is a great example of a real-life leadership incident where the application of a growth mindset allowed groupthink to be avoided.

This department was put in place by Churchill to give him bad news so that he could have a well-balanced view of things. Churchill ensured that his team would not be afraid to offer opposing opinions and point out problems with his plans or ideas. In doing so, it allowed him to avoid being “group-thinked” into a sense of false security. 

This is a clear example of a growth mindset over a fixed one. Churchill’s growth mindset led him to ask for a well-balanced view of things that ultimately helped him to tackle problems and come up with well-thought-out solutions.


Final Thoughts: How To Avoid Groupthink

So, how do we avoid groupthink? We can learn from Churchill here: don’t avoid negative things, and do encourage and embrace a well-balanced view of things. 

Essentially, if we ensure that we keep a growth mindset, we will not succumb to the groupthink phenomenon that prioritises cohesion over change. To do this, try engaging everyone in your teams and encourage their unfiltered input, which will result in healthy debate and better decision-making.

If your organisation is looking for a tool to involve all employees in decision-making and debate topics, have a look at Falcony | Observe. It enables your staff to participate in creating clarity on non-conformities, prevent and decrease the amount of friction in cross-team communications and gather actionable data while doing these.


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