Can groups be stupid?

There seem to be a number of articles circulating now describing stupidity in groups including this article by André Spicer on enshrined organisational stupidity and this article by Mariah Milano titled “America: The Land of the Stupid”.


While collective stupidity appears to be on the rise with Oxford Dictionaries selecting “post-truth” as 2016’s international word of the year, it’s certainly nothing new.


Human history is littered with groups/societies being certain of prevailing knowledge, such as the Earth being flat, and not welcoming new perspectives resulting in people such as Charles Darwin apparently postponing publication of his theory of evolution for 20 years because he was afraid of the reaction.


In these situations, there appears to be a willingness to sacrifice new thinking in order to maintain group cohesion – people choosing, often unconsciously and for many reasons including fear of authority, not to address issues in the group and to attack those that do.


But it doesn’t need to be that way so maybe a challenge for all of us in 2017 can be to spend some time identifying and raising awareness of the blind spots in our groups so that issues can be addressed together.


If you have any thoughts or comments, please share below or send me a LinkedIn connection request.

3 Comments on “Can groups be stupid?

  1. A Bion inspired approach to groups in the workplace is underused, as an example. An psycho-analytical approach to look at organizational behaviour askance is an opportunity to unearth a myriad of issues. However, the main issue here I think is the organizational “other” doesn’t want people to think. Not critically . Not to problematize. Comply, compute, deliver, go home and then come back and do it all again. And let’s not forget the fact that not everyone either enjoys or indeed performs to their best whilst working in a group/team environment…..But hey, don’t rock the boat -You’re a team player aren’t you? Why create problems for yourself in a world where precarious work environments for low wages and where you can be replaced relatively swiftly is the norm – what remains s left unspoken as the narrative of the modern western working environment….

  2. Our politicians rely on this concept when they enjoy world sabbaticals, salaries greater than they would ever earn, free travel and one of NZ’s highest paid retirement scenes. We are all stupid because we continue to let them do this and stupidly applaud career politicians who do it to us for their entire lives.

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