Friday

Collective Folly: Five Things to Avoid


The authors of The Power of Collective Wisdom put together this simple list of the five things to look out for regarding collective folly:

a. Confirmation Bias: We fall victim to the tendency to search for and interpret information in ways that confirm our existing pre-conceptions. Such a bias prevents us from seeing new ideas or other possibilities.

b. The One True Answer: We begin to believe (perhaps because of a too-narrow view of possibilities) that there is only one right answer or approach to solve a problem or arrive at a solution. We become rigid and dogmatic.

c. Polarization, Initial: Individuals and sub groups become polarized in their views and polarized from each other, no longer listening or considering new possibilities.

d. Polarization, Deepening:
As levels of polarization grow, each new piece of information or viewpoint becomes additional fodder used to attack an “other.”

e. Impasse: The group discovers it is deadlocked. Worse yet, neither side is able to see how their own rigidity weakens the aims of the entire group or collective. The focus of attention is no longer on the issues needing resolution but on the unreasonable position of the other.

The result? Collective folly, the absence of sound judgment and the potential for a continuum of behaviors ranging from foolish behavior to criminality, evil, and depravity on a mass scale.

Agree? Disagree? Chime in below.

83 comments:

John Renesch said...

In reading this I could not help thinkinmg about the political impass we have reached here in the U.S., with each side more foucsed on opposing "the other" than what's best for the people. Here's to turning collective folly into collective wisdom, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Tim Blair said...

Yep, I've seen this a lot in corporate meetings. I couldn't agree more with John about the political impasse. BK should send a copy of this book to every person in the congress and the senate!

Amy Lenzo said...

This is great. I can see how these attitudes effect us at every level - from couple and family dynamics to work or other organizational interactions, to the national and international folly we fall into, as both John and Tim have pointed out.

I love that you've addressed how we fall into collective folly as well as how we access collective wisdom in your work - interestingly enough information about the former may be even more valuable for seeing ourselves accurately and creating the conditions in which we can effect change, both collectively and individually.

Carol Frenier said...

Very timely, Alan, given our current political debate. One of the challenges I offer to everyone, and am putting to myself as well,
is to apply these five items to myself. How am I exhibiting them right now in the national debate? It is a lot easier to see how these processes affect the "other" than how it affects ourselves, but self-awareness is where change is most likely to occur.

Barbara Paige Kaplan said...

Indeed, and the group can arrive at collective folly in the blink of an eye. Your five things to avoid may happen before there is any conscious awareness of the depth of difference. That's why we need people like ou at the beginning of an endeavor rather than when things have begun or completely fallen apart.

Eileen McDargh said...

By gum--they have described the California Legislature!!!

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