Case study Bridgewater – How they avoid groupthink

Bridgewater associates was the company Adam Grant cited in his book “Originals” who very much cut across the grind to avoid groupthink. Here is a company founded in 1975, with their HQ based in Connecticut, handles 170 billion dollars in investment funds. The founder of this company illustrates the way they do things in his book “Principles”.

Here are some highlights, about Bridgewater that I found insightful. It starts with a strong commitment culture and in Bridgewater, they ensure this is ingrained deliberately when employees are recruited. All potential recruits are made known that they are expected to voice concerns and critique directly. They have been told not to let loyalty stand in the way of truth and openness. Ray Dalio has been known to tell his employees that “none has the right to hold a critical opinion without speaking about it”. In the employee evaluation system, staff are evaluated on speaking up. Employees can be fired for failing to challenge status quo. Diversity becomes the must have to ensure you want to avoid “groupthink” in your teams. Here meritocracy is centered on ideas you bring to the table. 

When employees are recruited, they are expected to live the principle of realizing that you have nothing to fear from the truth. New employees are hired based how well they fit in to this philosophy. In place in Bridgewater is an intensive bootcamp designed around the fundamental practice of the company culture. In the boot camp;

  • New employees reflect and discuss the “principle” placed in emotional intense situations
  • They also need to evaluate on how well they were able to integrate it, to behaviour

What Bridgewater does, is making sure “groupthink” and reaching consensus quickly is avoided amongst all levels of their employees. This is a practice I see fundamentally lacking in many organizations. Orientation programs are centred on putting across values, vision and mission statements. Departmental roles and what we do is usually shared. What companies can do, is beyond just orientation programs; they need to share how employees are required to embody the behaviours expected of them in the workplace. In my next article I will share the 6 practices in Bridgewater, to ensure “Group Think” is avoided in all their employees.