The Dangers Of Groupthink

A Social Experiment:

In the past couple of weeks, I have been wandering around the Twitter-verse looking for potential conversations that could be very interesting. I like to provoke these conversations because often, both myself and at least one person across from me in the conversation learn something from each other. But these conversations in the last couple of weeks have unfortunately not been that way. They have highlighted the dangers of groupthink.

Defining:

Groupthink is an interesting phenomenon to me.

noun

 1. the practice of approaching problems or issues as matters that are best dealt with by consensus of a group rather than by individuals acting independently; conformity.
 2. the lack of individual creativity, or of a sense of personal responsibility, that is sometimes characteristic of group interaction.

As you can see by the first definition, groupthink can sometimes be a necessary evil. When you are trying to handle an issue that is for a group of people, and not just an individual, groupthink helps make sure there is a consensus on how to handle things.

Then there is definition number two. This is where I struggle to understand people’s reliance on the group.

 

A quick sidebar:

I guarantee that some of the people I interacted with on Twitter would probably consider me an Internet troll. At some level, they might be correct. I’m coming in and blowing up their bubble with my view point.

However, I can assure you that my intent in this is never to sow seeds of discord. Rather, my intent is to insert some additional information that gets people thinking. I like to encourage people to think for themselves, because groupthink is at the heart of the divisions in this world. Being accepting of multiple sources of information and actually thinking about them allows you to expand your horizons knowingly, rather than blindly shutting down anyone who doesn’t view the world the way you do.

Back to our story:

My latest engagements have been with people who like to talk politics, religion, and science. These are probably the most divisive subjects on the face of the planet today. Me personally, I’m a moderate in all of these areas. I have these conversations on Twitter to give them a chance to organically grow with additional people.

So when I talk to someone who is left leaning on politics, they accuse me of not supporting the social good, being a racist, and being greedy. When I talk to someone on the right side of the spectrum, I get accused of being a bleeding-heart who doesn’t support our president, does support higher taxes, and doesn’t support states’ rights. With either side, I never changed my position once. I did encounter some people willing to have a discourse, but in the political realm, that is where I found most of the detractors who were suffering from groupthink. They often resorted to name calling and personal attacks.

Recently though, I got in to a discussion with some people about science, specifically on the theory of evolution. Some were scientists, others were atheists, and others just enjoyed the pursuit of science a whole lot. I posed two things. One, that the portion of the theory of evolution that is identified as macro-evolution is no longer a useful theory. Rather, micro-evolution was a way you can explain just about every mutation in history. Two, I also posed that I believed religion and science could be and are intertwined. No one bothered to ask me how on that one. I got about two-and-a-half people to actually engage me on some meaningful conversation. However, they still showed elements of groupthink, and I made no ground in getting them to provide the contravening ideas any thought. The ones who wouldn’t engage me… well, let’s just say it’s an interesting experiencing being insulted by a hyper-intellectual.

 

 

The moral of the story:

It is OK to be the black sheep. Really, it is. Some of the world’s most loved innovators and disruptive individuals have been black sheep. The world wants to know what it takes to be the next Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg, etc. My answer is “don’t be like the world”.


Also published on Medium.

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