Crushed By Opinion Conformity

by Jay Deragon on 10/20/2012

Winston Churchill once observed, “Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most times he will pick himself up and carry on with the status quo.”

The most problematic challenges in business these days are associated with getting organizations to change the way they think. Organizational leaders don’t necessarily resist thinking about change but they do resist being changed but different thinking. The difference is who controls the change and who is effected by it. The most common frustration of change agents is to provide perfectly  good logic to what needs to change for the organization to improve only to be greeted by cultural barriers controlled by management for purposes of self preservation.

Every leader will tell you they agree things need to change but the majority of leaders think that change applies to everyone but themselves. Subsequently the power grid of most organizations is designed to protecting leadership from having to change. The power grid is insulated by a common influence known as “opinion conformity”.  Opinion conformity is expected in most organizations because it is used as a means to control power.

Give Praise to the Emperor

Steve Tobak writes: The theory is that “flattery and opinion conformity” make CEO’s overconfident, resulting in “biased strategic decision making” and, well, you know the rest. In other words, CEO’s who surround themselves with yes-men that engage in group-think are more likely to maintain the status quo and implement or stick with ill-conceived strategies. And of course, that’s bad news for their companies.

The study, entitled “Set up for a Fall: The Insidious Effects of Flattery and Opinion Conformity toward Corporate Leaders,” validates a premise that pretty much anyone with an ounce of critical thinking ability has known since about 400 B.C., when Socrates said, “Think not those faithful who praise thy words and actions, but those who kindly reprove thy faults.”The Greek philosopher may have been the first to make that observation, but he certainly wasn’t the last.

The problem is that, while everybody’s aware of it, CEO’s and business leaders are forever falling victim to it. The real question is how can companies avoid the insidious problem of yes-men and group-think? via The evils of yes-men and groupthink – CBS News.

Old business philosophies relied on the few to control  the many using the influence of opinion conformity.   Use of opinion conformity has crushed human potential and productivity. In the Social Era the power of opinion conformity has flipped. A wise man seeks the counsel of many. Now the few must learn to use the opinion of the many to unleash human potential and productivity.


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