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Dangerous Groupthink Styles in Aviation and Their Relevance in Other Industries

Control room, image made by author with DiffusionBee

In the aviation industry, people rarely work alone, as most jobs are done in teams. Pilots, cabin crew the air traffic controllers and also aircraft technicians almost always work in teams. This all contributes to a safe environment for passengers and staff. Therefore, it is important to understand the dangerous types of groupthink that can lead to accidents. This article will provide insight into how these thinking styles can be applied in non-aviation environments, with the aim of making team leaders and managers aware other industries need to improve team performance by avoiding dangerous groupthink styles.

Conformity is common in the cockpit, as there is often a culture of hierarchy there. The seniority of pilots determines decision-making power in the aircraft, and often pilots with lower seniority do not speak up for fear of conflict within the team by pointing out dangers that their seniors may not have noticed. It is important that everyone does not feel pressured to remain silent if they perceive hazards that may affect flight operations. Conformity is also more common in some cultures than others; In some countries, pilots are more conformist than pilots from Europe or the United States, because they are influenced by their national culture to show respect to seniors in a highly hierarchical society and do not speak up.

Groupthink occurs everywhere, where individuals work together on a larger scale, consisting of mostly conformists who avoid conflict with others. If the majority of a group turn out to be conformists, individuals lack the ability to enforce rational decision-making when working within this group. Conformity and groupthink are common problems in many work environments, and the major drawback is that the team loses an important ability to gather knowledge from team members, where ideas can be gathered to make the best decisions. It is important that different opinions are heard and considered by the team leader or manager, as each individual in the group may represent experiences of different educational levels, different cultures and traditions.

Group polarisation:
Group polarisation can also be found in a broader context; a common example that often leads to negative thinking by employees towards their employers or colleagues within the same company are, for example, trade unions, press or social media. Group polarisation can lead conflicts between employee groups within a company or with company management. Many companies experience strikes by technicians, maintenance staff, pilots, cabin crew and ground staff, often due to extreme feelings about underpayment or poor treatment.

Social Loafing:
Social loafing is a phenomenon where people exert less effort when working together in a group compared to individual work. As individuals, they feel less accountable for their performance when working in a group and believe that others will notice or even fix their mistakes. In other words, they feel that their individual contributions will not be noticed or rewarded, so they do not try as hard.

Bystander effect:
The bystander effect occurs when individuals do not take action when faced with an emergency or other problem, assuming that someone else will. This often arises because people tend to watch how other people react to a situation. If no one responds, they also do not feel responsible to respond.

In summary, dangerous groupthink styles can lead to accidents across industries where people work in teams. These styles include conformity, groupthink, group polarisation, social loafing and the bystander effect. It is important to recognize and address these styles to improve team performance and prevent accidents.

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