How Do Group Dynamics Play a Role in Design Thinking?

Students are familiar with it from project work, often decisions are made in group-dynamic meetings that are later doubted the next day at the latest.

How Does This Kind of Groupthink Develop?

Groupthink occurs when a group of people collectively takes worse decisions than each group member would have taken alone.  The causes of this irrational behaviour lie in the mutual pressure for homogeneity and conformity. Even when the smartest minds work together, there is often a danger of negative groupthink. 

You can easily recognise a group with a positive dynamic by the fact that team members trust each other, work well together towards a collective decision and take joint responsibility for decisions.  In fact, research shows that teams with a positive dynamic are almost twice as creative as the average group.

In a group with poor group dynamics, the behaviour of the participants disrupts the work.  As a result, the group hardly reaches a decision or makes a poor choice because the group members could not effectively elaborate and explore options.

Especially in Design Thinking with international group members, the group dynamic plays a very important role. Otherwise, in addition to the barriers that already exist, such as language, further barriers can arise.

How Can Good Group Dynamics Be Created?

After working together in a team for over a week, some things have proven to be very useful.

It is important to have a Design Thinking facilitator who can guide the team through the process. It is important to know which phase to go through and what the outcome should be.

Furthermore, it is very important that problems that can negatively affect the team are addressed directly. For example, members feel that some members are not participating in the work. Then the problem should be addressed immediately, perhaps in private at first.

It has also been very helpful to define the goal from the outset. Because if the team works without focus, it is often the case that a bad dynamic develops.

Another insight was that team-building measures should be used. Even though these seem a bit frowned upon, they help immensely with team building. These exercises make it easier for all team members to join the group.

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