9 Ways to Escape 'Group Think' Trap

We need to work in teams but think for ourselves.
9 Ways to Escape 'Group Think' Trap
Image credit: Forest Woodward | Getty Images
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Today's world is largely run on the Group Think philosophy, where working in groups or teams is favored over cultivating individuality and creative thinking. To leave a legendary and meaningful mark, we have to find the balance between being a part of the pack, and having the time to nurture our ability to think on our own, for ourselves and by ourselves. Many of our most influential leaders, inventors, businessmen and women were people who valued being left alone with their own thought process, and were the most creative when in the company of their own minds.

1. Dare to be different.

To be the same seems to go along with the social idea that fitting in is somehow necessary for success. Everything today is about the group. Our society, all the way down to elementary school, has become about working in groups, pods etc., in favor of working and thinking independently. The “group think” process pulls us away from our individuality, which is not to discount that there are many advantages to the group process, but there must be balance. Many of us get so caught up in following the crowd, we end up lost in it. Nothing about the crowd allows our unique gifts to develop. We become carbon copies of the masses. To leave a mark on the world we have to dare to be different.

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2. Be quiet.

Many of us feel, that to get noticed or to stand out, we have to be loud. We compete to be the first to speak, to promote our skills and knowledge as being superior to others, and we stop observing what really makes us great. Be quiet. Learn to listen and observe. Think, not about what others want from you, but focus more on the bigger picture of what would make you and your company successful. If we learn to be quiet, we learn to listen. If we learn to listen, we get a deeper sense of the need-base to build our ideas around. We must keep in mind, if our lips are moving, our ears are not working. Extroversion is misunderstood as confidence, yet true brilliance most often come from introversion.

3. Work alone.

“Group think” in many ways, cripples us from thinking for ourselves. We have become largely dependent upon the thinking of others to take our careers to the next level. To make a meaningful difference, it is imperative to do at least 50% of our work alone. The thinking we generate from within our own minds, in our own space, without confusion and interruption, is remarkable. There is something deeply magical and innovative about being engrossed in our own thought process without distraction. Take time alone to firm up your ideas. Support your ideas with the research and evidence of how and why your ideas will be a success. Once this work, attention and research is solid, then you can present it to the group for further expansion.

4. Humility.

To leave a meaningful mark on the world, we must be more focused on our passions, ideas and bringing them to fruition, then focused on the notoriety or accolades which could come from them. We must operate from purpose and passion, rather than ego. Commit to being purpose driven. Having and important impact cannot be about seeking recognition. Once our ideas are in motion and gleaning tremendous success, it serves us nothing to gloat about who we are and what we did. Our work will stand for itself. It’s amazing how once a person starts gloating over their skills and talents, they almost instantly become unremarkable to others, regardless of their brilliance or success.

5. Say less, mean more.

We live in a world of great speakers. It is amazing how well a sales person’s personality, not the true ideas they are selling, generate sales. As people, we get caught up in the charisma and forcefulness of a person and how they how speak. We lose connection with an observing awareness of if what they are speaking about are genuinely good ideas or products. Because of this, we end up buying a personality, rather than ideas or products that work. We get sold, only to realize we’ve been sold a bag of ineffectiveness. To stand out, we must have the integrity to mean what say. We must only sell good ideas backed by research. When we mean what we say, we alleviate problems going forward. The more we know about what we’re doing, the less we have to sell it.

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6. Be patient.

In this quick fix digital age of having everything we want at the click of button, we have lost the ability to remain patient. We are sending off reactive emails and text messages when we don’t get what we want, and seem to have zero patience to allow life the necessary time to work things out. To be a person who leaves a genuine mark on the world, we must possess patience. Success is a labor of love.  Be willing to suffer through the hardships which come along with success. If it were easy, then we would all be making a tremendous difference. Those who have left an incredible imprint on the world, have shown tremendous composure and patience through their process. They are not experienced by others as difficult or temperamental. Patience and kindness trump genius.

7. Self-belief.

In a world full of bullies and naysayers, the one thing we can count on to differentiate us from others, is a deeply felt sense of self-belief.  Whenever we think uniquely, are different than the rest, it creates haters. The most effective way to surpass these types, their bullying and intimidation tactics is to believe in ourselves and our ideas so deeply that we’re willing to risk it all. To make a mark on this world we must extinguish the belief that we need others to believe in what we are doing for us to be successful in doing it. It takes courage and self-belief to dare greatly.

8. Break rules.

To separate ourselves from others, we have to step away from the status quo. It isn’t about going against rules, for the sake of being rebellious. It is about bending rules to fit the expanded ideas we are working on in an effort to give them life. We must choose to go against the grain, not for the sake of attention or creating drama, but because it is the only way to get out of the standard box of thinking, which lacks creativity. If a rule stands in the way of our creative expression, we must create ways to bypass these rules and do whatever we need to do to put our innovative ideas out there. As Eleanor Roosevelt states, well behaved people rarely make history.

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9. Tough minded.

A weak minded individual cannot amount to being more than a follower. To make a meaningful difference, to have a deep and lasting impact, we have to be tough minded. We become this way through the developmental process of growing through our hardships. With each hardship, we raise our basic level of training. We must understand that we regress under stress, so to increase our ability to handle stress we must be willing to suffer uncertainty, rejection and self-doubt. Being tough minded helps us push and mature ourselves psychologically. As we develop this resiliency, through never giving up, we develop our tenacity to be controversial enough to stick around.

Let this upcoming year be about making your mark on this world. We each have been given unique gifts that get lost in the group think, and fitting into the status quo. We must take it upon ourselves to create the time to work alone, think alone, and to depend upon and nurture our own thinking and creative processes. We cannot make a meaningful difference being caught up in following the crowd, mimicking what we think others want us to be. We become competitive with the pack, rather than listening to our gut instincts. This pulls us away from our individuality, and the creativity necessary to be authentic and innovative enough to bring something unique and life enhancing into the world.