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Collective Folly: Five Things to Avoid

Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

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.

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