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Using groups to achieve a goal

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Using groups to achieve a goal

Scott Miker

There is a wealth of information online.  It astonishes me how easy it is to find almost any piece of useful or useless information through Google.  I have used YouTube videos to lean how to iron my clothes, fix my furnace and publish a book. 

But utilizing groups can also be dangerous.  Too often, in a small group setting, the squeaky wheel gets oiled.  In other words, those in the group that are the loudest often get more attention than those who aren’t as vocal.

We get part of this from evolution.  A small group of cavemen would have to determine whom to follow in order to survive.  The loudest, most confident, person would seem to be the best.  If an individual weren’t as confident he or she would tend to be less vocal. 

But today many people know that to be heard they have to be very vocal in their opinions.  But the problem is that it doesn’t make them right.  Therefore, relying on the loudest ones in the group is a poor strategy. 

Google does a great job of cutting through the noise to help us find exactly what we are looking for online.  It uses advanced techniques to filter through results and display them in a way that is most likely to solve the problem for us.

There are great benefits to small groups but beware of some of the downfalls to them.  Understand that groups can easily take you away from your goals if you are not actively monitoring it. 

The other day I overheard a group at a local restaurant talking about a new diet they are all trying.  There was one very vocal member of the group who seemed to be convincing the others which direction to take.  But in listening to her arguments I found myself feeling like this was a bad direction to go.  She didn’t seem to have any education in nutrition, yet the others in the group listened intently.     

Recently I read an article that talked about army ants.  Apparently there is a phenomenon called an ant mill where army ants get separated from the main foraging group and begin following one another.  But because they are all following each other they form a circle and continue to go around and around until they die. 

To me this represents the worst in groups.  We have to make sure that we utilize groups to help us achieve our goals but we avoid turning into an ant mill.  Groups can be incredibly helpful and the collection of information online shows that humans continue to learn and discover new innovations. 

So as you begin working towards your goals, make sure you are forming your own opinion.  Don’t just assume someone else knows what is best for you.  Take the time to question the usual way of doing things to avoid following a losing path.  And finally, learn to take insight from many independent sources in order to have a better understanding of the situation.