Management books tout the importance of harmony, cohesion, and alignment with company values and practices. Comforting though they are, such goals often carry with them the assumption that unanimity is always helpful.
Indeed, like-mindedness has its benefits, viz. high morale, a sense of identity, and a vision’s execution. But an unchallenged majority can “bend reality.” Toeing the line can delude everyone into having faith in opinions that’re not true or beneficial.
I’ve talked previously about how humans have a tendency to create, maintain, and guard cliques. Life-minded groups recruit, socialize, and reward consensus while reproving dissent (consider Scientology.) People are recruited to fit with the organization, and they become even more socialized into the culture.
Influence-by-majority belief narrows the cognitive map
For the sake of consensus, people can overlook the confutation from their own senses and blindly follow the majority, whether right or wrong. In the bestselling Outliers: The Story of Success (2008,) pop sociologist Malcolm Gladwell calls attention to the cultural predisposition to maintain silence and not rock the boat:
Korean Air had more plane crashes than almost any other airline in the world for a period at the end of the 1990s. When we think of airline crashes, we think, Oh, they must have had old planes. They must have had badly trained pilots. No. What they were struggling with was a cultural legacy, that Korean culture is hierarchical. You are obliged to be deferential toward your elders and superiors in a way that would be unimaginable in the U.S.
Uniformity of thought and esprit de corps can act together to make people amenable and taciturn when they see a problem or a better option.
Idea for Impact: Making sure everyone’s on the same page can produce harmony—of the cult-like variety. Encourage dissent and counterevidence in decision-making.
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