The Power of New Blood: Break away from ‘Group Think’ to Innovate and Improve Productivity


New associates are a clean slate! They lack exposure to a clinic team; specifically, biases created within the team by previous experiences and interactions. But as soon as their first day begins, the clinic’s team will open them up to a variety of practice biases in decision making, idea generation and task implementation. Some of the Eric Rookermost powerful of these effects originates from the bias of Group Think and the social networking implications of the Matthew Effect.

Group Think
Group Think is the ultimate application of the following statement, “We’ve always done it this way.” This phenomenon occurs when group members strive to avoid conflict that could cause their ostracization from the group. Often this evolutionary selected, genetically preprogrammed, self-preservation trait goes unnoticed even by the individual expressing it.

Writer Kendra Cherry best characterizes this phenomenon with the following statement: “Group Think causes individuals who are opposed to the decisions of the group to remain quiet and keep the peace resulting in a lack of dissenting opinions and an increase in the potential for tunnel vision as well as catastrophic failure of ideas.”

The Matthew Effect
This concept of Group Think also influences the social networking concept called the Matthew Effect, which was derived from the book of Matthew in the Bible, chapter 25 verse 29:

“For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from them that have not, shall be taken away even that which he hath.”

Figure 1 illustrates the positive outcome the Matthew Effect can produce. The most successful groups often have new ideas, frequently pursue meaningful work, are more creative, more productive at work, and are ultimately more successful compared to their peers.   Matthew Effect

On the other hand, groups whose ideas have stagnated grow less or innovate at a slower rate, are less efficient and ultimately foster a less rewarding work environment.

The Associate Advantage
We know a clinic’s Group Think profoundly influences their Matthew Effect. By avoiding conflict, the group’s growth and creativity declines, resulting in a homogeneity of ideas which in turn suppresses innovation, and ultimately stunts growth via the Matthew Effect. The lack of positive progress then becomes a self-perpetuating cycle as Group Think kicks in again, and team members avoid presenting new ideas or behaviors once again for fear of ostracization.

By resetting a practice’s Group Think, an associate can make a considerable impact in dismantling a cycle within a clinic. Associates that challenge the current implemented ideas and social cohesion cause other members to voice their new ideas, innovations or concerns. While Group Think is a complex issue, there are two simple steps associates and practices can implement to attack this issue.

Combatting Group Think first begins when associates challenge accepted ideas using clear, open and assertive communication. They need to ask the hard questions such as, “Why do we do it this way?” This seemly innocuous question, when presented with confidence and a genuine inquisitive spirit, forces the team to consider why exactly they act in a certain way, resulting in the opportunity for a paradigm shift in the practice’s Think Group.

The second step to attacking Group Think begins with the management team. When hiring a new associate, managers need to establish a practice culture where attitudes towards authority are less of a manager-employee relationship and more of a peer-based, mentor-mentee relationship. Shifting this approach opens the door for management to reduce the Power Distance which will improve social cohesion within the team.

Power Distance is the distance between management and their team in terms of who has ultimate authority over ideas, decisions and directions. In essence, it’s a lagging indicator of the level of Group Think at a practice. As the power distance becomes greater, or employees become more afraid to disagree with ownership, practices develop a homogeneity of ideas and manifest a negative Matthew Effect that runs a risk of “catastrophic idea failure.”

This model embraces an associate’s potential to challenge the moral and management issues within the practice which empowers the team to review and rationalize decisions in the face of new objectives, open discussion and a renewed sense of morality.  This challenge can lead to improved interoffice relationships, improved client satisfaction, a renewed quality of medicine and improved business management.

When properly motivated, any new associate can aid a practice in breaking existing negative behavior. The simple act of adding an associate to the practice team challenges pre-existing clinic dynamics, improves diversity, and requires a resetting of medical and management SOP’s. Combining this with a healthy mentorship program, clinics can leverage their new associate to assist in breaking the paralysis of Group Think and establish a positive Matthew Effect.

If you have issues with fostering such an environment within your clinic or are an associate struggling to be heard, I invite you to join us in a USDA grant funded group environment tailored to addressing your unique problems or concerns. Learn more at  


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