In 1972 Irving Janis, a psychologist, used the term groupthink to describe how groups of people can make bad or irrational decisions.

Via Wikipedia: In a groupthink situation, each member of the group attempts to conform his or her opinions to what they believe to be the consensus of the group. In a general sense this seems to be a rational way to approach the situation. However this results in a situation in which the group ultimately agrees upon an action which each member might individually consider to be unwise?

Janis listed eight symptoms that he said were indicative of groupthink:

  1. Illusion of invulnerability
  2. Unquestioned belief in the inherent morality of the group
  3. Collective rationalization of group’s decisions
  4. Shared stereotypes of outgroup, particularly opponents
  5. Self-censorship; members withhold criticisms
  6. Illusion of unanimity
  7. Direct pressure on dissenters to conform
  8. Self-appointed “mindguards” protect the group from negative information

Finally, the seven symptoms of decision affected by groupthink are:

  1. Incomplete survey of alternatives
  2. Incomplete survey of objectives
  3. Failure to examine risks of preferred choice
  4. Failure to re-appraise initially rejected alternatives
  5. Poor information search
  6. Selective bias in processing information at hand
  7. Failure to work out contingency plans

There are a lot of professions where groupthink can exist. Marketing is one.

Pickup a newspaper or magazine. Thumb through the pages and look at the ads.

What do you see?

Uniform, unmemorable advertising. There are exceptions, but not many. Not enough.

The same applies to websites, white papers, sales letters, brochures, flyers, press releases, guarantees, and offers.

Groupthink leads to safe choices. Safe choices are conventional wisdom that results in technically perfect campaigns. And technically perfect campaigns don’t produce this letter.

The lesson, if there is one, is that following the herd takes you through the same waterhole, walks you down the same path, and delivers you to the same destination. If you want the same results as enjoyed by all others, join them in the thinking and conventional wisdom they share. If you want more, do something different. Difference gets noticed in a world where everyone is the same.

Word of caution and clarity — different doesn’t mean brash, wild, or risky. Different means just that, different. The risk is trying to get noticed by doing what everyone else does.

It’s said a picture is worth 1000 words. It’s probably true. And here’s the picture that led to this post and the 428 words associated with it.

Food for thought.


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