Groupthink umami

Groupthink is a human the phenomenon which suggests that when groups of people spend time together they see the world in a similar way.

What is perceived as normal, good or bad, finds an equilibrium that is not challenged, in order, I imagine, so that people can work together – packs, whether human, lion or wolf, are far more effective when operating as one unit than as individuals in many ways. The italics are because sometimes, groupthink can allow us to misconstrue the world, awfully – think racism, sexism, cynicism, or glass ceilings.

How do we reconcile the good and the bad in terms of this phenomenon? We need to work together as a group – a team; this is more relevant now than at any other time – with unprecedented challenges of economics, health, and, environment, the only way that we will overcome this complexity tsunami is by working together.

Humans, despite this necessity, seem to crack under the pressure, moving in three directions – left, right or somewhere in the middle – the Sanders, the Trumps and the Clintons, to take a current political example. This I imagine is worldview mixed with upbringing, culture and something else; in cookery, this would be the Umami.

What do you do when what you see, or the way you see the world is something that you know might be wrong – very, very wrong (I am watching the Man in the High Castle with my son at the moment, so this is preying on my mind) – what do you do when you find yourself questioning the Left, the Right or the Centre? When the conversations you begin are interpreted by your allies, your team, group or camp as being contrary to what they believe?

Often, and this I find to be the tool used most widely, is turning to ‘evidence’ – that is not necessarily the evidence of opening your eyes and seeing, un-blinkered by prejudice the world around you, but rather, the world of data, for data is what now rules us.

Whether small data – the evidence I gather from asking people what they think – in particular, those people who are not within my usual ‘group’, or big data – the information from systems, the calculations that supermarket chains and Google are processing about us.

What is the value of this small data? I see what I see and what I see, I see; what if you can’t see? What if the light is wrong? The sounds are muffled; communications corrupt? What if the world around you is distorted by your own experience or the experience of those close to you, or by your neurology or physiology, if your senses and perceptions are altered, whether by nature, nurture, physiology or pathology.

I guess, and this might seem a little wishy-washy, but, we need to be guided as much by what we see – when you look out the window and see the rain – assume, it is raining, even when the weather report says it is sunny; be prepared however to question, interrogate the data – is it rain, or my neighbour’s watering-can? Is the report for my area? Has the sun just passed or is it round the corner? Ask a friend, triangulate your data, for if they have triangulated theirs and so on, you rapidly collect a more accurate picture – was the ‘Sonic Boom’ an explosion, earthquake, imagination or a fighter-jet intercepting a passenger plane whose communications had failed?

You do need to decide where to start – you can’t, and more importantly, we can’t equivocate forever. We need to determine where we are heading, whether that direction is where we wish to go and for how long we are happy to pursue it. Even, when the feedback you are receiving says, ‘keep going,’ we all need to be prepared to realise we might be wrong and the value of the group, is when you are prepared and able to listen to others, to allow the voices of the outsiders, the undecided and the newbies to be heard.

Then, at that point, groupthink, becomes thinking, teams and tribes become effective and we are able to create new and potentially better realities.

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