This post is sponsored by Fairing
You’re planning a surprise birthday party for your best friend. You enlist three other friends to help figure out logistics.
Your friend loves to keep things low-key, so you’re thinking a simple dinner with her besties is the way to go.
Before you can share your idea, her other friend suggests a big night out on the town. They want to get reservations at a trendy nightclub and splurge for VIP bottle service.
The two other friends quickly agree to the idea, suggesting you book a limo too, and invite all her friends and coworkers.
Before you know it… the intimate dinner with friends you were envisioning has ballooned into the social event of the year.
You worry that your friend may not want such a glitzy affair, but you decide to keep your opinion to yourself and go with the group’s consensus.
Why did you agree to their plan even though you think it’s not the best approach?
In today’s edition of Why We Buy, we’re taking a look at Groupthink – why ideas that are most agreed upon often win even if they’re not necessarily the best idea.
Let’s get into it…
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The Psychology of Groupthink 🧠
Why do we so easily succumb to others’ ideas, even when we don’t totally believe in them?
Irving Janis is the psychologist that coined the term “Groupthink”. He discovered the phenomenon after studying group decision-making under stressful conditions in 1971.
Janis found that people often won’t share doubts or judgments on a decision if the rest of the group agrees that it’s a good idea.
Psychologists have figured out that there are 8 “symptoms” that cause Groupthink:
- Feeling overly optimistic and more risk-tolerant
- Avoiding questioning beliefs
- A lack of rationalizing
- Choosing self-censorship
- Leaders censoring problematic information
- Assuming everyone is in agreement
- Peer pressure to conform
But there’s a big problem with these “symptoms”… you don’t know you’re experiencing them until it’s too late.
Inside Your Buyer’s Mind 🧐
Whether they realize it or not, buyers often want to be part of the herd. Agreeing with the general consensus of the group feels safer than sharing a dissenting opinion.
This pushes people to nod their heads and agree to bad decisions.
The recent FTX scandal is Groupthink in a nutshell. The cryptocurrency exchange platform was backed by some of the biggest investors in the world. Celebrities like Tom Brady were spokespeople for the brand. The exchange even bought an arena in Miami (and named it the FTX Arena). Yet, FTX’s $32 billion valuation disappeared overnight.
And so did $8 billion in customer funds (that have yet to be recouped).
How did FTX trick everyone into thinking they were legit?
Looking back, there were so many red flags (a small engineering team, young and inexperienced C-Suite executives, a lack of oversight, etc.).
Groupthink led investors to believe that FTX was a wonder child of the exchange industry, so everybody went with it.
When the group says, “this is a great idea,” it’s like a magnetic force that pulls us in closer.
How To Apply This 🤑
Alright, so how can we apply this right now to sell more?
Use customer insight to avoid Groupthink
The best businesses are customer-obsessed. Jeff Bezos famously left an empty chair in every board meeting so that he could point to it and ask, “What would our customer think about this decision?
Bringing the metaphorical customer into every meeting helped Amazon avoid Groupthink.
Better yet, actually having the opinions of your buyers can drive the right change, campaign, and strategies. Surveying buyers helps reduce Groupthink because it’s easier for people to speak up with dissenting views and opinions when they have customer insight to back them up.
Post-purchase surveys are an extremely powerful tool. You can learn exactly what triggered customers to buy and what their expectations are with your product.
Create an environment where the best ideas win
Steve Jobs famously said that you need to create an environment where the best ideas win. But, the best ideas can’t make their way to the group if the loudest and most persuasive people are getting the upper-hand.
Have your team submit ideas anonymously and vote on them anonymously ahead of meetings. This removes Groupthink and lets the best ideas come to the surface.
Start by brainstorming anti-goals
Have you ever written down everything you didn’t want to happen? When we think about our goals, we generally look at what we want to happen. We want to enjoy each day and end it feeling happy and fulfilled.
But what if you wrote down your anti-goals? As Andrew Wilkinson explains, “instead of thinking through what we wanted our perfect day to look like, we thought about the worst day imaginable and how to avoid it.”
If you want to avoid a day full of long meetings, your anti-goal is to “Never schedule an in-person meeting when it can otherwise be accomplished via email or phone (or not at all).”
The same applies to your product launches and campaigns. Write down the surefire ways to guarantee that they fail. Then, make sure you don’t do anything that supports that potential.
The Short of It 💥
Groupthink is convenient. It’s more convenient to go with the crowd than it is to go against it.
The lack of friction leads to less creativity, the same voices getting their way, and thinking inside the box.
Push against the bias of Groupthink by setting up check marks that create space for new and different thoughts to rise.
Until next time, happy selling!
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