Breaking free from Groupthink.
If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking.
~Gen. George S. Patton
Groupthink is a big challenge in our world today. You see it in politics, the news, and even at work.
There are two powerful forces at work here. One is that many people, sadly, would rather not think for themselves. They’re fine with allowing others to make the decisions and they fall in line with them.
The second force is that we are dangerously moving toward a more top-down approach in our culture. “Thought leaders” or others come up with the talking points and a large majority of people just repeat them. If you’ve ever witnessed a political debate on social media, you see this at work. It’s not a dialogue between two people. It’s a shouting of talking points heard on Fox News and MSNBC.
General George Patton lived a long time ago. So, this isn’t a new problem, but our age technological encroachment on independent thinking makes it more dire.
Power hack: Here are a few thoughts to help you break free from this malaise and think for yourself.
- Be an army of one – if you’re right, who cares if you’re an army of one. Be willing do you, regardless of what they say.
- Groupthink is often wrong – if you haven’t noticed all this groupthink – often called consensus – is wrong a lot. Everyone may think something, but that doesn’t mean it’s correct. Do your due diligence, draw your own conclusions, and be willing to take a stand.
- Everybody believes it- be ready for the world not to like you sometimes. Being right on the Iraq War in 2003 was a good way to get yourself ostracized or even fired in some places. By 2015, you had politicians and news people who had full-throatedly supported that war admitting it was a mistake. There were a lot of us independent thinkers who understood the folly in real time.
- The experts don’t always know – experts know a lot of things, but there’s two things you need remember about the experts. 1) They have an agenda like everyone else. 2) They are tied to the status quo. Their expertise is tied up in knowing what is. They’re not really that good at seeing what can be. Get a visionary for that.
- So, you get one wrong – so once in a while you get it wrong by going out on a limb. So what! As pointed out above the groupthinkers get it wrong all the time. Here’s what I guarantee you. Think for yourself and you’ll come out ahead of the herd. You may miss big, but you’ll win big too. Groupthinkers are forever trapped in the mushy middle of mediocrity.
- Unique matters – your unique thoughts, that refuse to go with the prevailing flow, may be exactly what is needed to balance things, to right things, or even to solve them. Stay true to you!
- Think for yourself but not only of yourself – Thinking for yourself should avoid narcissism. Thinking for yourself does not mean thinking only about yourself. Independent thinkers can do amazing things for the group when they are allowed to do so. The group would be wise to let them.
Never concede your thinking to the group. Be flexible enough to follow the facts, as you know them, but always think for yourself. A world filled with people like that is a better world.