As we start a new year, I set out to write about the most powerful force in our business lives. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is “groupthink.” They say that “thinking makes it so,” and when it comes to picking the winners and losers the predictive analysis of those with a strong media presence certainly seems to carry a lot more weight than average. While this may have always been the case, the popularity and pervasiveness of social media has certainly elevated the speed with which groupthink travels around the globe. That’s the thing about groupthink. Ubiquity equals truth.
This really struck me over the holidays as I watched U.S. university football teams (North American football, that is) compete in their season finale games. After four months of competition, all of the experts had ranked the teams and the oddsmakers were confident enough to take your money. This “group” had pontificated nonstop for weeks about who will win and why.
After so many posts and interviews and statistics, most observers become enamored with this “educated opinion” – diehard team fans aside. But, something different happens in the world of sports than happens in business. They play the game out front for all to see. In case you don’t follow NCAA football, our group of experts really missed the mark this year. Sure, they picked the national champion correctly but the oddsmakers were off by 14 points, and they blew a lot of other games as well (I’m looking at you UCF/Baylor & Oklahoma/Bama!). I have to admit that even I bought into it. After all, these talking heads are all ex-players, coaches and well, experts, right?!
In the business world, we never get to see a clear competition mediated by impartial officials broadcast live for us to study. Business competitors are often radically different in size and financial backing. History is full of superior products that failed to overtake their lacking competitors for reasons that fall outside of the product lines. I think that this lack of QC on groupthink can lead us into some very bad places (see the Dutch Tulip Bulb Crash of 1634, Dot Com Bubble of 2001, U.S housing crash in the mid-2000’s, etc.). However, it can be a great equalizer as well.
With social media, YouTube, and the wealth of low-cost publishing formats available to us all, we have the ability to join the chorus. I don’t think you can use Twitter to overcome product flaws, but I do think that it can be used to increase your profile in the industry and aid in customer support. After all, when it comes to 3D imaging we are the experts!
Secondly, I would be willing to bet that every one of us has given work to someone based on our trust in them or our fondness for their personality over a low-cost alternative. Developing those relationships in today’s market requires more than a firm handshake and a good reputation. It requires a clean Google search and an impressive online presence. I don’t think that you can get much more groupthink than that…