October 30–31, 2016: Training
October 31–November 2, 2016: Tutorials & Conference
New York, NY

The groupthink vulnerability: Impacts and countermeasures

Laura Mather (Unitive)
2:10pm–2:50pm Tuesday, 11/01/2016
The human element
Location: Grand Ballroom West Level: Non-technical
Average rating: ****.
(4.33, 3 ratings)

What you'll learn

  • Understand how groupthink works and why it makes teams vulnerable
  • Learn what countermeasures are effective in building resilient teams


Maintaining security requires high-quality decision making in the moment. Groupthink is a serious vulnerability in which the desire for conformity within a group of people results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. A half-century of research has clearly shown that conformist teams produce poor outcomes. How can security teams bring together the right combination of perspectives to achieve their goals in an ever-changing threat environment?

Laura Mather describes lessons learned while designing teams to be resistant to groupthink at the NSA, eBay, Silver Tail Systems, and Unitive and outlines best practices for data-driven team building. Drawing inspiration from these evidence-based approaches, Laura shares examples of nonconformist teams solving problems that stumped homogeneous groups and provides a framework for building stronger and more resilient security teams.

Photo of Laura Mather

Laura Mather


Laura Mather is the founder and CEO of Unitive, where she combines expertise in technology, insights into human behavior, and an entrepreneurial savvy to address major challenges facing business and society and is developing a suite of software to transform the talent management landscape by bolstering traditional human resource processes with software to eliminate unconscious bias and get the right people into the right jobs.

Previously, Laura cofounded Silver Tail Systems and built it to a team of 100 that protected over one billion accounts before being acquired by RSA, the security division of EMC. Laura began her career at the National Security Agency and Britannica.com before pioneering antiphishing practices for eBay and PayPal in the early 2000s. Throughout these professional experiences, Laura became intrigued with how the most productive teams were formed and witnessed how a lack of diversity stunted innovation and effectiveness at organizations, whether big or small, government, startup, or Fortune 500. In 2012, Laura was 16th on Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business list, 6th on Fortune’s list of Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs, and 9th on Business Insider’s list of Most Powerful Women Engineers. In 2013, she was named to the top 50 Future Digital Strategists for Corporate Boards by Agenda magazine. Laura holds a PhD in computer science and a BS in applied mathematics.