Sunday, November 7, 2010

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: Stop the Insanity

When the Native American’s in America’s Southwest needed to kill Bison they didn’t walk up to one and hit it over the head with a stick, mostly because the Bison didn’t approve of that sort of behavior and tended to kill anyone who acted that way. Instead they got them to panic and herded them over a cliff. When herd animals panic they form groups and then the group thinking takes over the individuals caution.

Unfortunately, humans are pack animals and respond much the same as herd animals. When humans react like the Bison it is called groupthink.

Putting it really simple groupthink is when people start valuing conformity over facts. A group will try to minimize conflict and reach consensus by not analyzing, and critically testing ideas. Individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking are lost in the pursuit of group cohesiveness.

Here are the eight symptoms indicative of groupthink.
1. Illusions of invulnerability creating excessive optimism and encouraging risk taking.
2. Rationalizing warnings that might challenge the group's assumptions.
3. Unquestioned belief in the morality of the group, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.
4. Stereotyping those who are opposed to the group as weak, evil, biased, spiteful, disfigured, impotent, or stupid.
5. Direct pressure to conform placed on any member who questions the group, couched in terms of "disloyalty".
6. Self-censorship of ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.
7. Illusions of unanimity among group members, silence is viewed as agreement.
8. Mind guards — self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting information.

You would have to be blind not to see this behavior in most of the major institutions in America right now, from the Banks throwing the entire economy in to risky derivatives because they were “Too Big too Fail” to the Republicans apologizing to BP that our Gulf Waters messed up their oil drilling.

One of the worst ways that Groupthink has infected our major organizations is to loop itself around and make leaders believe that Groupthink is good for an organization and make them hire only people who fall for Groupthink.

Major organizations from Wal-Mart to Wall Street are using the OCEAN model of personality test. OCEAN stands for Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. Of these 5 traits only one has a real purpose in measuring how well an employee will perform, Conscientiousness. Employers have been asking applicants these questions for years, “Will you show up to work on time? Do you finish tasks or like to leave them halfway through?” This test is totally unnecessary for that.

The others are downright dangerous for a company to test for. Openness High scorers tend to be original, creative, curious, and thoughtful; Low scorers tend to be conventional, down to earth, narrow interests, uncreative. Of these two types which do you think employers want?

For entry-level work employers want conventional down to earth types that will do what the high ups tell them to do. This would be fine if the higher ups were original, creative, curious, and thoughtful. But if you don’t let this type in then there won’t be any creative types to promote. A good organization needs both.

The extraversion and agreeableness keeps dissenting thoughts from entering into the groupthink reinforcing the bad behavior.

So I say to all the companies that promote using these tests for hiring, “Shut-up Stupid, You are promoting Groupthink which is causing bad decisions and destroying the very organizations you are working for.”

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts

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