Project Anti-Groupthink

The name of this blog-experiment, I think, is a bit of a misnomer.  In psychology groupthink refers to phenomenon that sacrifices personal creativity, innovation, and conflict for group consensus.  (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink)

In the spirit of not conforming, I will begin by taking a sharp curve away from music and movies into a diatribe on the importance of personal responsibility, creativity, and discernment.

The hype surrounding swine flu really brings to surface the true function of the mainstream media in our lives.  By only providing sound bites instead of substance, the mainstream media is really only good at bringing the name of a topic into popular awareness.  Beyond that, it’s basically useless.  Gathering actual useful data about a particular topic requires an individual to engage information, instead of being spoon fed. 

I have six recommendations for preventing conformity and increasing constructive conflict in our lives.  I strive for these in myself and continually encourage others to as well.

1)       Get outside your comfort zone. 

Think back over the past 30 days.  How many times can you say that you forced yourself to do something, learn something, or endure something that wasn’t easy?  If your answer is less than ten, you’re being complacent about your growth as a human being.  Human beings are capable of amazing growth, as many individuals in history have proven.  Complacency, comfort, and contentment are the 3 C’s of stagnation. 

This brings me to my second recommendation:

2)       Widen your circle of information

The tech term GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out) applies here.

With all this additional information, however, passivity is no longer an option.  This brings me to my third recommendation:

3)       Discriminate

The viewpoints outside the mainstream media are diverse, divergent, and sometimes downright dumb.  This should not discourage your from your search.  When panning for gold, you do not give up because there is dirt present.  You keep digging, keep panning, looking for the shiny rocks.  Yes, there is pyrite, but there’s also gold.  The search is worth it.

You need to apply your own sense of what is possible, what is likely, what is plausible to the incoming data.  Do not allow yourself to be duped.  Staying loyal to mainstream media does not keep you safe from being duped, but almost certainly insures its inevitability.  Yet, not everything outside the mainstream is any more that dirt in the river bed either.  It takes discernment, discrimination.  Can you tell fact from bullshit? 

Ultimately our beliefs in what is possible, what is real will determine how we discriminate the incoming data.  This brings me to my fourth recommendation:

4)       Challenge your own beliefs

The best way to constructively demolish a paradigm is by introducing compelling data that the paradigm cannot handle.

A great way to find this data is to investigate other person’s paradigms, and the data they are built on.  This brings me to my fifth recommendation:

5)       Learn other’s viewpoints and rationale

Really get inside the head of your philosophical opponents.  Are you a radical, left wing liberal that believes in social justice, equitable opportunity, and civil liberties?  Spend some time learning about what the conservatives in this country truly believe.  Temporarily set aside your objection to each of their assumptions and learn what it is they are trying to preserve, what they value, what their fears are that spawn the decision you do not like.

Are you a conservative that believes in god, country, and the sanctity of the nuclear family?  Try to learn about what drives liberals, what they are striving for.  Temporarily set aside your objection to each of their assumptions and learn about the values that spawn their desire to uphold civil liberties for all regardless of ideology.

I use politics as one example.  Ethical philosophies, religions, scientific theories and paradigms…..each of these could benefit from truly understanding the “opponent” from inside the opposing paradigm. 

My final and sixth recommendation is more of a cautionary warning than a recommendation:

6)       Extreme non-conformity is conformity

 

Intellectual irresponsibility brings conformity in excess.  Conformity itself, however, is not necessarily bad.  For instance, we agree not to kill each other (generally).  This is an excellent convention for us all to conform to if we’d like to cohabitate on spaceship earth. 

 

It goes back to discrimination.  There’s no easier answer, no formula to apply.  You literally have to make up your own mind on each topic, whether to conform and stay with the mainstream, or diverge into something less conventional.

 

Good luck with the struggle against groupthink.

 

merkaba33 is a contributing writer for projectgroupthink.wordpress.com.  Get instant updates for this blog via Twitter: PGTblog.

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7 Comments

Filed under philosophy, Politics, Uncategorized

7 responses to “Project Anti-Groupthink

  1. Pingback: Project Anti-Groupthink

  2. Soahki

    I really enjoyed your blog. I especially liked the fact that you offered so many practical suggestions for learning to think outside the usual parameters. I agree that many people develop a worldview over the course of their lifetimes, influenced by their upbringing, their social circle, and what they were taught in school (as well as what they were NOT taught). I think it is an intelligent person who can come to recognize paradox and hypocrisy in his or her own life. It’s a wise person who recognizes this and then takes steps to erase that conditioning. Coming to understand the world views of others, stepping outside your comfort zone, challenging your own beliefs, and the various other suggestions you posed are excellent ways to do this. I laughed when I read “extreme non- conformity is conformity”. That was me as a teenager! Haha, well said!

    Soahki is a contributing writer for projectgroupthink.wordpress.com. Get instant updates for this blog via Twitter: PGTblog.

  3. davidrsheehan

    I second Soahki – this was an enjoyable blog (even if I don’t agree wholeheartedly). Like any piece of information, I look (just like you suggest, merkaba33) at what is presented, what makes sense (or doesn’t), and where I call bullshit.

    So here’s a few comments.

    Title – appropriate and good point. I think Po’s “groupthink” was not the psychological one, but the collection of writers as a tank for generating thought- and conversation-provoking content. I could be wrong.

    Your suggestions/challenges. I found myself in complete agreement with several. 2-5 were particularly good and well put/segued. 6, I thought, fell a bit short in terms of clarity or scope, but seemed ok.

    1, however, I had a major problem with. This is not because I don’t go outside my own comfort zone. It’s more the trying to quantify a life practice. I’m sure you picked 10 as a decent number of times you should have stepped outside, but that seems incredibly random and falls short of being effective therefore.

    It factors in not at all the quality or significance of the step. For example, a small step outside for me on any given day would be to look at someone I don’t know as they walk by in public and say “Hi.” I just don’t do that (being an introvert), and to change would be uncomfortable for me. It would, I’d argue, be a much bigger change to pack up a few belongs and go on a mission trip for two weeks. This is sacrificing the normal routines and standards of life, the basic comforts of what’s familiar, and the typical input-output ratio of energy consumed/action created. All BIG steps.

    So must we do 10 mission trips a month to avoid stagnation and complacency about our growth as human beings? I think not.

    Bear in mind, I’m not diagreeing that reflection and self-evaluation of proportions of comfort-to-outsde-of-comfort is important… my beef is with quantifying it numerically.

  4. Po

    I didn’t really think I’d have to clarify this but the blog’s title is indeed an intentional misnomer! And yes, it is also symbolic of all of the things Dave mentioned. I thought the name was witty and freaking brilliant, if I do say so myself : P .

  5. Considering the recent events of Charlottesville, I have revisited the idea of starting an anti-groupthink group/movement with the purpose of depopularizing group think. It’s okay to agree with a group when the group is right about something, yet not self- righteous. Otherwise, groupthink, at worst leads to murder and violence, at best leads to complacency, lies, and confirmation bias.

    I may not be very smart, but I love original ideas. I like challenging old ideas. My own ideas are often wrong, but at least they are my own.

    I just typed in anti-group think in the search engine to see if anyone else has started a group that I might join. How is project anti groupthink a misnomer? Is there no project or established group?

    Wouldn’t be wonderful to be part of a group encouraging healthy debates, original thinking and freedom of speech while exposing the harmful effects of group think.

    • Wil Christe

      The original name was project group think (look at the URL).

      That was a misnomer.

      Also this blog is long dead/in a coma.

      • I never saw the URL and can’t find it now. I didn’t see the date of the original post until after I posted this eight years later. I am new to Word Press. I would like to delete all of these posts and start with a fresh page. Do you know how to do that?
        I would also like to change my URL from Sageswayofthinking to antigroupthink.

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