What measures are you taking to ensure that your business is not becoming susceptible to mediocrity via groupthink?

Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when a group of well-intentioned people makes irrational or non-optimal decisions spurred by the urge to conform or the belief that dissent is impossible. The problematic or premature consensus that is characteristic of groupthink may be fueled by a particular agenda—or it may be due to group members valuing harmony and coherence above critical thought.1


When I think about the future of oil and gas, there are many things that come to mind, especially the further I look into the future. Looking at scenarios out to 2050 and all the potential outcomes is interesting, but ultimately feels academic. What continues to plague my mind is the near-term. The general trends I am seeing in our society, overlaid with my experience in the business (from the site to the boardroom), suggest that we are heading down a slippery slope…one that does not end up well. Here is my logic:


Premise 1: The values of your employees at home are no different than at work – What you value at home is what you value at work…e.g. if you are not very safety conscious at home, it is highly unlikely you are at work. With that, to have a healthy safety culture in your business, you need an organization (people) that has a healthy safety culture outside of work. Note that, ‘safety’, could be replaced with any other value you want in your business (risk tolerance, ethics, financial, etc.). I also want to make the connection that greater societal culture is a reflection of the culture (values) of the individuals, which in turn is reflected in the culture of an organization. In other words, what we are seeing external to business will make its way into your business.


Premise 2: Groupthink is not a good thing in business – Groupthink is bad, right?…especially in high hazard environments? During my 20 years working for an upstream oil and gas operator, we were continually reminded of this and had many tactics to ensure we weren’t susceptible to groupthink…not only in high financial risk decisions, but especially when it came to assessing changes and safety risks to field operations. We were very deliberate to have ‘dissenters’ in the room to ensure that at least one person brought up an idea / risk / impact that was counter to what the group had come up with. It was not fun to be the ‘lone’ dissenter in the room (wasn’t a good way to make friends) but it had to be done. This was to ensure that we had a diverse and inclusive set of ideas in the room and, more importantly, in the discussion / debate. If, through logic and fact, an idea could not be properly dismissed, then there must be something to it and planning a forward path must incorporate it.


Issue at Hand – With those two premises in mind, let me pose (through a few questions) where it feels like broader society is moving (if it is not there already). Mind you, my questions are intentional and not random, potentially uncomfortable, and are based on my observation of several posts and comments right here on LinkedIn.

  • Can we have a conversation about climate change / global warming? Can we talk about why 2.0 C…or 1.5 C…and what the significance is around that?
    • …or will someone get called a ‘denier’?
  • Can we talk about the Coronavirus? Where did it come from? What measures are or are not working to mitigate the impacts (e.g. masks, lockdowns, etc.)?
    • …or will someone get called ‘anti-science’?
  • Can we have a conversation about diversity? Can we chat about why we believe there are differences in outcomes when it comes to a person’s race? Can we chat about what we believe defines a ‘boy’ or ‘girl’?
    • …or will someone get called a ‘racist’ or ‘homophobic’ or something else?


I am not seeing room for any of these conversations in broader society…or in the workplace for that matter. In fact, I am seeing more of the ‘or will someone get called [insert conversation killer here] options above. This is groupthink, and it is not good for society in general, but especially not for your business. This behavior will bleed into your business. As plans and decisions are being made (ESG, organization, energy transition, operational changes, etc.) groupthink will make them weaker, non-optimal, and potentially dangerous. What measures are you taking to ensure that your business is not becoming susceptible to mediocrity via groupthink? Do you have someone with the experience and gravitas to challenge groupthink, and do you have processes to ensure your business will run smooth and efficient?


Experience and Courage – Ensuring that someone in the room has the experience and, as important, the courage to bring in dissenting views is a must. At Endeavor Management, that is exactly what you get. We have a team of over 200 experts with an average of 35+ years of experience each across the entire spectrum of the oil and gas business. We have the experience you need and, because we are external to your business, you can be sure that the plans and decisions you are making are well thought through and have incorporated all views.



Adam Ballard

Chief Data Scientist and Digital Team Lead

Adam is a results-oriented Engineer and Data Scientist with significant Operations and Management experience; known as a consistent team player with skilled technical abilities and bias to pragmatic, operational solutions. He is recognized for top-to-bottom technical understanding and integration…