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Workplace culture: groupthink & dissent

In 2019, any workplace can stand out to potential candidates through its culture. And we’re not talking ping pong tables and open floor plans.

Creative, Strategy

Will Brennan

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We’re asking how workplace culture impacts design thinkers’ achievements in the office. Accenture research shows that workplace culture plays a significant role in addressing issues like gender equality and narrowing the pay gap. So how does it determine work satisfaction, relationships and progression in the eyes of young professionals and well-established institutions alike?

What defines a strong workplace culture?

Many will say that increased productivity, better employee morale and the ability to keep skilled workers matter most to build a strong workplace culture.

But on a more personal level, workplace culture impacts our ability to:

  • Hold ourselves accountable for our successes and failures
  • Focus on small ways to take our teams’ day-to-day operations to the next level
  • Deliver our best work possible
  • Remain open and honest with co-workers
  • Stay inspired

And the list goes on…

At the end of the day, a workplace’s culture lays the foundation for shaping and fostering our sense of belonging amongst our colleagues.

Where does groupthink fit in the picture?

Like any community, workplace culture helps foster certain routines and practices that keep an organisation running.

But with routines comes the possibility of predictable behavior that – at times – can become invasive and weaken workplace culture. We’ve all had moments in our professional lives when an officewide email rubs us the wrong way, a co-worker makes our personal business their own, or we leave a team meeting feeling misunderstood or undervalued.

These moments can breed harmful workplace practices, including groupthink: a phenomenon in which a group conforms to one way of thinking or decision-making – discouraging creativity or individual responsibility.

We’re familiar with the phenomenon in one way or another. It often leads us to lose sight of personal ambitions, hop on the proverbial bandwagon or do something because “they told me to.”

And its restrictions on creativity and harmful effects on inclusion and diversity make it a silent killer.

The solution to mitigate groupthink?

We’ve worked to identify solutions to mitigating groupthink in the workplace for as long as we’ve recognised workplace culture as a valuable business asset. Some are short-term, others long.

But in reality, groupthink isn’t going away any time soon.

And given the dangers that come with applying short-term solutions to long-term problems, the only fixes worth exploring are the ones that take time to implement.

So what’s a long-term solution to ending groupthink?

Dissent.

It’s a term David Ogilvy introduced in his book, Ogilvy on Advertising: “Talent, I believe, is most likely to be found among nonconformists, dissenters, and rebels.” And it has become a term people have used, reused and repurposed in the age of all things digital.

Dissent can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

But to design thinkers looking to deliver truly exceptional work in 2019, dissent means creative freedom.

When design thinkers begin to explore and appreciate a space with creative freedom, they each begin to value their respective imagination as an invaluable tool.

And when design thinking runs free, culture, purpose and professional relationships hold a whole new meaning – reinvigorating the workplace as a space for inspiration and innovation.

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