Among the various considerations over the coronavirus one we really do need to add to the mix.


Decisions about what to do are being made by small groups of people. And it’s easy enough for small groups to get caught up in a spiral of ever more extreme words and actions. This being one of the manifestations of groupthink.

No, I do not say this is the explanation for all. But I do say that it explains at least the appearance of some of what is going on.

The cure for groupthink is opening up the decision making group to others. From outside the previously exclusive group.

21 thoughts on “Groupthink”

  1. Bloke in North Dorset

    The problem isn’t that we don’t have heterodox thinkers now, its really too late to be bringing them in to the fold when a crises kicking off an organisation has to react and trust itself, its that the various organisations that need them eg civil service, BBC, research universities etc deliberately select them out as part of their recruitment process. Look at the fuss over Dominic Cummings and his recruitment process.

    Plus, its one of those irregular verbs: I think outside the box, you’re a bit odd, he’s bat shit crazy. Not easy for a conservative organisation to change itself.

    Now we’re settling down in to a long haul, or so we’re being told, is the time to bring them in.

  2. Different groups in different countries seem to have all independently reached the same conclusions though. That’s rather evidence of an absence of groupthink, no?

  3. Depends how much you think the public health peeps in different countries are in fact independent…..

  4. Bloke in North Dorset

    Just got back from a brisk 5 mile walk during which I listened to two related podcasts.

    On yesterday’s Coffee House Shots podcasts the New Statesman’s Stephen Bush made an interesting point. At the start of this the medical people followed the ‘flu plan (posted here by dearieme) that basically said protect the vulnerable and let it wash through the rest of the community. (Ed – Misinterpreted by some as herd immunity and attributed incorrectly to Dom Cummings). Apparently the civil service and medical profession have been rather surprised and pleased at how quickly industry has swung in to action and is producing ventilators and other equipment.

    NPR’s Planet Money team having been looking at that in detail and in particular a small ventilator manufacturer in Seattle and one of their suppliers who make small pistons. The ventilator capacity was about 200 machines a month at a push when this started. The machines have around 700 components and organising a supply chain to increase capacity would have been impossible for them.

    This is where the US Govts intervention kicked in and they ordered GM to get involved (at the time I thought it was odd). Within days GM’s supply chain team had sourced 100% of those components. As an example the piston manufacturers’ cast supplier turned round a new cast for multiple pistons in days instead of the usual weeks.

    The upshot is that the ventilator manufacturer has gone from 200 units a month in early March to potentially “10s of thousands” a month by mid April.

    If that’s happened across multiple companies and multiple products a whole new approach to the virus is needed.

  5. And not just health peeps. I thought this country was on a subtly different course (a bit like Sweden) before the left/MSM/fascists got to Boris and he caved in? PHE thinking that extensive testing (to collect quality info) would not be unnecessary if taking that first approach was monumentally incompetent (as PHE always are).

  6. There do see to be things that could be done without shutting down the entire economy.
    Provide masks at tube stations, bring in the army to run more trains at rush hour, put sanitiser sprays at bus stops, hire more cleaners for public buildings and retail outlets, stagger working hours now the days are getting longer, ban flights from China and other countries that routinely lie about their statistics, permit family reunions (best placed to evaluate risk), experiment with relaxing the rules in areas least affected, etc. The promised testing kits and better analysis of who and how death visited will soon give us a better idea of at least one side of the cost /disbenefit equation.

  7. We already know how to avoid Groupthink. Appoint Captain Potato as Health Tsar. First action: raise all tax rates to 100% and zero all thresholds. That will sort COVID19

  8. No sane leadership[p would have kept fools like Imperial on as advisors let alone paved the way for their crap to have gone worldwide.

    The favour and protection of the SCS is the explanation I believe. And the Imperial shitsquad have helped the SCS stitch Blojo up (not knowingly). When his mass deaths don’t arrive –but big economic trouble DOES–he will be in trouble.

  9. I suspect Sweden realised they couldn’t lock down the diversity so they might as well not bother.

    I am increasingly thinking it’s crowded trains and stuffy offices that are the threat. People who work in the open should be sent back to work.

  10. Not sure where I read about it, could have been here for all I know, but there used to be such a thing in government and business circles of a so called ‘red team’ whose sole purpose was to attack the consensus and give the contrary view.
    It’s especially well known in security related fields where an outside organisation is best placed to assess security, often by thinking outside the box and finding attack vectors not thought about previously.
    The key thing though is to get people who are not captured by the organisational groupthink to look at whatever issues need solving, and that means a culture of honesty and transparency. Does this sound like any government ever?

  11. You only have to look at London and the tube system to realize how useless government is at everything.
    Khan’s response to packed tubes as a transmission vector for the virus – let’s run fewer trains so people are packed even closer together!
    I’m reminded of what happened when NASA was given the task of getting a man to the moon, and safely returning him. It wasn’t possible for the Government to do it on its own so they harnessed the awesome power of American industry. In the event, some 20000 companies and 400000 engineers and scientists were involved.
    If only the fifth biggest economy in the world could harness it’s inherent scientific and engineering clout to find new and novel ways of ameliorating the impact of this virus!
    Given the huge amounts of money wasted and enormous economic impact, I could easily imagine different and better ways that this situation could have been handled. But as usual we are led by politicians who’s greatest educational achievement is usually a ‘PPE’.
    I note the dearth of scientific knowledge of those in the cabinet and compare it to Germany, who’s government I can imagine (without even looking) is stuffed to the gills with Science and engineering PHd’s.
    It’s a shame when I think that the first woman Prime Minister that we had ( our sainted Maggie, PBUH) was one of the few with a science background.

  12. The ‘group’ is in fact de facto World Government… at least Western World Government. It is group think and peer pressure. All think the same on climate change, obesity, plastics, GM, what can be said or though, and now the Wu Flu.

    Johnson started off sensible but then because France, Italy, Spain were doing lockdown, Johnson followed suit, Trump too.

  13. Not sure where I read about it, could have been here for all I know, but there used to be such a thing in government and business circles of a so called ‘red team’ whose sole purpose was to attack the consensus and give the contrary view.

    The “Tenth Man Rule”, developed by the Israelis after groupthink nearly lost them the Yom Kippur war.

  14. Blojo will have been under pressure from all sides.

    Like quite a few polipigs he has the vice of being stubborn where he shouldn’t –Huawei and HSR2–and weak were he also shouldn’t be ie the lockdown.

    Sure he was agitated enough to suggest he didn’t want it but almost count for no more in politics than it does in affairs of the Heart.

  15. I may be on my own tiny island here, but I find “social distancing” grating.

    “Social” smacks of group think. It’s the wrong word, but everyone uses it.

    Let’s go with civil distancing. Or anti-social distancing. There is absolutely fvcking nothing social about distancing. Or as I just did, call it “distancing.” A new word that everyone knows the meaning of. Social adds nothing to it but the sound of creepy, modern-day activism.

  16. @ blokeinBrum
    MacMillan had a policy of having a “No man” (sometimes more than one) in his Cabinets so that any silly idea would get challenged instead of going through on the nod. It wasn’t called “Red team” or anything dramatic like that.

  17. @gamecock agree, they are trying to get people to use physical distancing as the better term here, but social distancing seems to have taken a firm hold.

  18. I heard a mental health professional on the radio this afternoon saying that “social distancing” is bad terminology, and recommended BniC’s same “physical distancing.”

    I retain a mild objection: “distancing” says it all. No adjective needed.

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