Dear Miss Cain,
I’ve always had a strong opinion against groupthink and group work in general. While it does have instances in which it is productive, I’m often very reluctant to engage in such group discussion. In your article, The New Groupthink, you seem to also be opposed to the concept of groupthink that is becoming a recurring theme in most work places. When we engage in group think, we are often discouraged to voice our opinions, because of fear of rejection or seeming foolish, or as Professor Berns calls “the pain of independence.” Likewise, we are more likely to mimic the opinions of others and succumb to peer pressure to the point where we eventually agree with what we don’t believe in.
With this in mind, consider the idea of collaboration and online outlets. Clay Shirky discusses the role contributors play in the masses on websites like Wikipedia in his piece Personal Motivation Meets Collaborative Production. He describes it as a cycle: once an article exists, it gets readers, some of whom decide to make contributions to what was published. In the masses, this is ultimately effective, especially online. Wikipedia is comparable to a process, rather than a product because it is never finished (thanks to frequent and consistent contributions from readers). It is also said that on average, as the frequency of contributions increases, the articles improve overtime. This is also due to the idea of being able to hide behind a screen, which is in a sense remaining autonomous.
In addition, creativity is often associated with solitude. Examples are given of famous introverts – Isaac Newton, Pablo Picasso, and Steve Wozniak – innovators, who preferred to work alone. This is not to say, as you propose, that we cannot combine both groupthink and autonomy. You describe human nature as remaining consistent throughout time.
“And most humans have two contradictory impulses: we love and need one another, yet we crave privacy and autonomy”
I believe it is both possible and a more productive approach to the subject – looking at the two as needing one another. Perhaps we can work alone for a time, and then move to groupthink to discuss what we have previously researched on our own.
In his article, The Great Seduction from the Cult of the Amateur, Andrew Keen discusses how are “personalized truths” are being destroyed by mainstream media. Our own truth’s eventually become grouped together where they are all valid and worthwhile. In the process we lose sight of our own original opinions as we fall into a category with a billion other members of society. He quotes CEO of Edelman PR, Richard Edelman: “In this era of exploding media technologies there is no truth except the truth you create for yourself.” By using this quote, he urges us to not lose our identity in grand scheme of things in mainstream society today.