Dare to differ

Dare to differ

Although it’s often assumed that the truth lies in numbers, consensus may lead to bad decisions.  Yes indeed: the majority opinion is not always superior because people can have influenced one another.  So many people taking the same actions or decisions is not per definition an indication of accuracy or good judgement.  In fact, ten people may only have the accuracy of one.

The South Sea Bubble of the early 18th century, the housing bubbles, the stock bubbles, etc. all demonstrate this.  And ok, statistically speaking the majority may be right, but the problem is that we assume that they are right simply because they are ‘the many’ rather than ‘the few’.  However, 'the few' may hold the truth and 'the many' may be wrong.  Unfortunately, history has demonstrated that the truth is not always a protection against the majority... Even more: people may be afraid to be in the minority so they follow the group.  You can see that also in consumer behaviour.  Why do we go into restaurants that are full and avoid those that are half empty?  Why do some people only buy best-seller books?  We do that because we see the actions/decisions of the majority as a signal that a product, an experience or an idea has value. 

That fear of being in the minority often manifests itself also in the workplace.  How many people do not speak up when they see problems?  A lot.  They think that broadcasting their opinion will not matter or that the company will ignore what they say.  Or they just fear bad reactions from the majority.  And who is “the majority”?  Those who find comfort in silence and who do not report a problem.  So in a sense, silence is an invisible weapon that gives power to the majority. 

Although the majority is not always right, it indeed has a lot of power.  However, it has one major weakness: consensus.  One person challenging the consensus can break the power of the majority and force others to think deeper.   Sadly enough, opposing views are not always welcomed.  Dissident thinkers are not always liked.  So expressing an opposing view takes courage.  But believe me: that courage is contagious.  It increases the chance that others will also show courage.  It stimulates divergent thinking – the kind of thinking that is a must for good decision-taking.  So yes, it’s often valuable ‘to have a good fight’.  Dare to differ.  Help to create organisations that welcome and expect different voices. 

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