“Groupthink at Play in the Boardroom… and the Art of Challenging Consensus”


Dana Carney - UC Berkeley Haas Business

Dana R. Carney, Ph.D.

Associate Professor Psychology, UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business

Neil Kurtz, M.D.

Neil Kurtz, M.D.
President & CEO, Golden Living; Director, Medidata Solutions, TeamHealth

Magda Marquet, Ph.D.

Magda Marquet, Ph.D.
Chairman and co-Founder, Althea
(moderator)

John Mutch

John Mutch

Managing Partner, MV Advisors LLC; Director, Agilysys, Inc, Aviat Networks, Quantum Corp.


It’s a safe bet. No board or committee on earth has not succumbed to the siren call — and perils — of groupthink.  While directors don’t need to be “buddies” for a board to function well, there has to be mutual respect and a decent amount of collegiality, because boards must ultimately reach consensus to make decisions.  That’s where it can get tricky.

While former Enron CFO Andy Fastow took the lion’s share of blame for the demise of Enron, he warned about the reluctance of board members to challenge decisions, analysis, conclusions; and the inclination at times to go with the flow and be quick to agree with management and other board members. He recommended a need for more “professional skepticism”. While Enron is an “extreme” example, every board is at risk.

Sidestepping the landmines:

  • Where is the line between individual thinking and the  pursuit of cohesion or consensus?
  • What if it leads to pressure to conform?
  • Has the group truly considered a range of alternative courses of action?
  • Is there a dominant director on the board?
  • What is the role of the chair in keeping groupthink in check?

Because most important decisions in business are made by committees, vigilance of the process is required. Companies succeed or fail based on the mastery of group and human dynamics.

Our group dynamics expert will walk through how it happens, and our other panelists will share personal experiences as activist investors, directors, CEOs and chairmen. If you think it couldn’t happen to you, beware!


Register for an event

Click here for Corporate Member Registration

Share with your peers: