Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

My response to CBC News Online’s report on pre-Iraq war intelligence:

I had never heard the term groupthink before today.  After reading and comparing the symptoms and guidelines for preventing groupthink, as described by Irving Janis, I’m astonished by how many decisions are results of groupthink.  The article points out the CIA’s intelligence-gathering efforts when seeking information before the steps that lead to the Iraqi invasion back in 2003.  The US select senate committee proposes that stereotyping of the enemy, rationalization and shared mental models lead to the ‘quick’ decisions.  Maybe more devil’s advocates inside the senior officials group would have helped prevent what the article describes as a failure of Intelligence Community managers. 

I’ve taken these concepts and models and applied them to some my own decisions and group actions and can completely see the mechanics of Janis’ explanations.  Some of the more dominant symptoms that I’ve seen are illusions of invulnerability and peer pressure.  To avoid criticism and to build loyalty and group empowerment are very powerful symptoms.  It’s easy to see why groupthink can finds in way into the decision making process.  I believe that the idea of one or more devil’s advocate and really having a leader that holds their ideas until they’ve heard the group’s opinions are the best ways to avoid this phenomenon.  A great leader listens before they commit to a decision.


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