We are still at crossroads; this was my message in the first issue of this year. I advised how best to get past the trying times not as a January event but gradually as months pass by. My message was targeted to people who think and act as groups as well as individually. All of us surprisingly fall in these categories. I am wary of individuals getting lost into decision-making as groups, a phenomenon called ‘Group think’. Groups that we belong to, the formal and informal ones alike always build and shape our character. But being in groups can also destroy us.
Actually, in growing up, we were warned of ‘groups’. We were warned to be open and belong to various groupings. And, as I look back today, we can all confess that there are friends who shaped our behaviour and influenced our upbringing. Groups form, grow, change and dissipate.
We always talk about team work; once it is built, there emerges team thinking. This is when there is a positive influence of members with a focus to common goals. The members exhibit common characteristics and will realize the group objectives jointly.
They act together and ensure that everyone is focused on the same goals. In this developed team work, the leaders play a minimal role; the members all think and act almost in unison. But on the other hand, when we talk of groups, it’s a row form of teams. Groups are loose in nature; either members have just come together and still learning each other’s characters, or people have stayed together for a while but circumstances have still not favoured them to knit together.
There is still a character-search. We have organizations, departments or sections where team work has eluded the members. They are characterized by internal squabbles, limited information exchange, diversity in thinking and acting. Such a group will much often be inefficient and non-productive. There is still a high level of individualism. Next on our scale of this analysis is a crowd. Crowds are temporary gatherings with many people who are together for a loose common purpose. Often, the crowd is not structured; that is why people in a church are not a crowd; but spectators around a playground watching a football match are.
In this Issue, I wish to interest you into Group thinking. As the year enters the second month, we are still being reminded of the crises that society is faced with: Covid-19 is still among us and worse at the stage of community infection. Its economic and social pressures are harder than before. In the standard operating procedures that we have been told, there are group and individual aspects. Group thinking is for us a tendency to withhold individual wisdom.
In this regard, individuals tend to keep silent on general matters and wait to go by what others may wish to say or do. Gradually, the entire group is silent. Gradually, no one speaks and group wisdom is stalled. Important initiatives are withheld and the group stagnates. Leaders in such groups think of themselves as superiors and when they do not hear from others, they may think their ideas are at the top of the game.
Inherently, we are at such crossroads with Covid-19, national political campaigns, poverty and other pressures we are facing in society. To paddle through the pressures within which we have started this year, therefore requires clear individual wisdom. Individually, we must think of our lives, family, and friends whom we may endanger if we contract coronavirus. Not the crowd who do not want to follow the guidelines.
As we steer in these troubled times, let us remember that our individual voices and actions are the mighty solutions.
Prof. Vincent Bagire
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