The inner life of a group includes:
Group norms – both formal and informal. What is acceptable behaviour
in the group, the type of language that is used, and the patterns of
interaction between individuals – for example, a top-down organisation.
There are conformity pressures which are both good and bad. They
keep groups working together with common goals and minimise
distractions, but too much conformity can lead to groupthink.
People strive for consensus and fear being ostracised, so they don’t
challenge decisions. As a result, sub-optimal decisions are rationalised
by the group leading to poor results. Famous examples include the Bay
of Pigs invasion and the collapse of Swiss Air.^7
Roles that people play in that group. These can be formal work roles or
positions, or less formal roles, that people adopt according to cognitive
style and personality.
Status is ‘social worth’. A complex mixture of some or all of: approval,
respect, power, admiration, and prestige.
There is often a formal management structure, and other routes to
- Authentic achievement, and/or celebrity
- Some strategies are affiliative – based on ability, generosity, and
number of allies. Such people appear competent, prosocial, and
well connected and are respected for that.
- Some strategies are based on intimidation, coercion, and fear –
and these people will have influence without respect. They are
seen as difficult and self-serving.
- In some groups people who are highly knowledgeable might have
status, or those prepared to take risks - it depends on what is
valued in that group.
- Since status is often signalled by consumer goods (especially
those marketed as expensive and discerning), some people buy
their way in to status.
Status is important because it gives people influence , even if they don’t
have actual power. They have credibility and trust. They can affect
people’s opinions, shape the framework of a discussion, recommend
products and ideas – and be heard.
(^7) Groupthink examples in business
Set the group norms
you want consciously at
Allow people to express
dissenting opinions to
tools to account for all
Most of the ‘difficult
roles’ reveal underlying
needs for appreciation,
validation or security.
It is easier online to
create a level playing
field as people are
more limited in how
they can display their
If you are training set
out your knowledge
credentials at the start.