Individual vs Group

Let us look in the above in the context of creativity and survivability; of individual and group.

Many of us went through the “marooned on the moon” simulation exercise. The result is well known, people make poor decision as individuals. This is highlighted by the more negative variance from recommended solution.

After bargaining the results as a group, we find that the negative variance of the collective solution is smaller than individuals. There are few rare individuals that make better decision than their group. These individuals rarely exceeded 1 in a group of 5. (This does not mean it’s about 20% but statistically about 5%. (This is a hunch. Look forward to test the hypothesis next company retreat)

The above result led to conflicts of interests between individual vs group.

According to Peter Senge, in book “Presence : HUMAN PURPOSE AND THE FIELD OF THE FUTURE” (other authors, Joseph Jaworski, C. Otto Scharmer, Betty Sue Flowers), he uses a term “Groupthink”. “Groupthink” defined as “the continual albeit often subtle, censoring of honesty and authenticity in a team. This collective Voice of Judgment tells people what they should and shouldn’t say, do, and even think.”

This is a conflict in individual vs group.

In context, it appears that in this game of survival, groupthink is a proven to ensure high chances of success for individuals. However, the downside is that entire group can be simply wiped out from the face of the earth because of groupthink.

Group wins

Borders, a mega bookstore that made it from zero-to-hero and back-to-zero (ended in a leverage buyout failure). The groupthink in Borders made its success, chain concept of retailing book. They are able to capture a wider audience through variety of titles of books carried, and purchase bargaining powers. Borders got so prominent that they could not avoid anti-trust lawsuit (settled in 2001).

Individual wins

The founders of Amazon went into, amongst others, book retailing business. It is a long tail business, without physical retailing space. The book “The Long Tail : Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More” by Chris Anderson provides a good grasp. Jeff Bezos bulldozed Borders to the ground. Borders gave up their online business in the early 2000 to concentrate on their physical retail.

Borders board had groupthink because they are already so big while this individual outperformed Borders because he is not stuck with groupthink. Not Yet. Now amazon is big, Amazon has groupthink problem.

Individual vs Group

The million dollar question is, “When groupthink is right vs when individual think is right?”. My hunch (earlier in the story) says that only 5% of the individual ideas out-perform the group. In the reality, it’s something so difficult to identify.

Before making a judgment call, it’s good to meditate for a minute, listen to the advice of this faint inner voice. Survival of the species depends on it. The most difficult voice to detect is the one that come heart.


The head usually tricks us it’s a voice from the heart. Think of dating and marriage. During dating the mind registers a groovy feeling, before marriage “…from the bottom of my heart…”; after marriage “…”..titanic.}

Individual vs Group


Listen to this faint voice from the heart. Ensure that it is not a mind trick. Group consensus voting on decisions is good. Meditate before doing anything. Don’t hesitate to deviate and meditate harder in a situation of individual vs group, go alone.