Whyte-Out: How the Creator of Groupthink Became Unseen by Management's History

Irving Janis’ (1971) concept of ‘groupthink’, the idea that the desire for consensus overrides the realistic appraisals of alternatives and leads to poor decision making, is a staple of management and organizational behavior textbooks. Despite gaining little support in empirical studies, Janis’ eight symptoms of groupthink remains a popular framework taught to budding managers. What has been forgotten, however, is that nearly 20 years before Janis’ supposed invention, groupthink was created by William H Whyte, author of one of the 1950s’ most influential and popular books on management. We investigate how Whyte’s link to groupthink became invisible to management’s history, why this matters, and how recovering Whyte’s ideas can provide fresh, critical insights into people dynamics in contemporary organizations."

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CC BY-NC-ND 4.0