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Monday, February 27, 2006

Group conformity and whistling !

We all belong to groups, some of the groups to which we belong are obvious, some are obscure; Some of the groups are inherently good to belong to and some are not, obviously that judgement is somewhat subjective in its own right. Being identified as belonging is important to our self identity. On a larger scale, groups like political parties, professional organisations server their own purpose we might join them because they agree with our point of view or because it's a networking opportunity. I want to discuss the groups that we create ourselves, our social and professional groups each person's clique. It was once said Bill Gates, stop hissing in the back there, may not be the smartest man on the planet, but his strength is he knows this - and because he knows this he surrounds himself with some of the smartest people on the planet.

I once had the honour to head up a group of people that were developing a piece of pretty safety critical software, don't get me wrong we weren't controlling cooling rods or fly by wire spy planes (that was another team, only joking). It is valuable to note I am not the greatest programmer in the world, I think I'm good yeah, I can write elegant and cunning code some of the time but I'm not a pro. It is also important to note that I wasn't put in-charge of the team it was a role that evolved, some might say through charm and charisma, through vision and understanding, all honourable charges, personally I think I got it because no one else wanted it.

The final product was awesome, really it was fantastic. Solved the problem, our client was ecstatic all brilliant.

What we had in that group broke down in a very interesting way, we had some code that was truly superb, we had some code that was downright a complete honest to God kludge and we had some code that was OK. What our team had through wasn't just a programming mindset, this is where people go wrong, we had a researching mindset, a communicating mindset (with both our client ad internally), we had a team building mindset. I could go on and bring myself to a rapturous climax talking about our task division our scheduling our tenacity etc. Most of all I think we had a great group that had a truly diverse set of talents, all the cliches in our case worked.

We enjoyed being part of this group - where am I going ? Well in the end what set us up as a group was that one member had this noise, it was a whistle, he'd use it for when things went wrong, when attention was wanted, when someone was stupid when someone was truly geeky, when someone arrived, when we answered the phone. It was extremely annoying - but it caught on and the entire group picked it up. Only our group if anyone else would have tried to assimilate themselves to our group by using it we'd have thought "What a complete ass". Surly all the other people in our vicinity must have thought the same thing of all of us. We didn't notice and we didn't care if we did. This was what made our group unique. It bound us. Just like war vets. are united by a particularly horrific battle or competitors remember a specific event, I remember this group. Why do groups, pick up on certain things, is it to do with sucking up to a senior member ? Is it to do with imitating a popular member, is it simply a yearning to belong to a group any group. Even if it's simply a innocuous, insignificant group which to belong to. You could easily argue the other way that a group that is pushed together can sometimes look for a unifying factor, rather than having a unifying factor that causes them to gravitate together in the first place. Bill Gates' group, quiet there, were probably brought together because they were good they probably then invented a commonality other than that reason, some groups have the commonality first ?

James Surowiecki wrote in his book the wisdom of crowds about an experiment whereby a bunch of sociologists went out on the street and put a single person looking up at the sky in a street corner, after some time several others joined that one person no one really knew what they were looking at. Then they tried it with a larger starting number and more people joined the group quicker. Finally they had a whole bunch in the starting group and got a hit rate of, we're talking 85%+ here. Why because people like to belong to a group, they hate to think they're missing out on something. When you join a new school or office you wanna be one of the in kids. What defines the in kids no one knows, it certainly isn't whistling at random intervals I can't think of a less cool thing.

Think about it, do you have a saying that people pick up off you if you use it enough, do you pick up sayings of other people, other's idiosyncrasies ? Is this related to when ever I hear Susan Vaga's Tom's Diner music, I think back to my first year at Uni where I could never get that going out of my head and everyone in my dorm came to hate this tune because all you had to hear was those opening note to have the whole room flipping through that tune in their heads, over and over. One more example before I try to make point, there was this guy again from Uni who when asked to do something that he didn't want to do and it was obviously a no brian'er would proceed his refusal with mock consideration "Errrrr....... no" this "Err" noise could take from mere seconds to many tens of seconds, it was annoying but in the end a whole bunch of us ended up preceding the word no with very long "Errrrrrrrrrrrrrs"

So often when you think a group of people with a little in joke or a noise, or a whistle is a bunch of jerks consider why they do it, it can't simply be to annoy you personally. It could just be what makes them a group and a well formed group that has something that unifies them will, hands down, beat just any old well formed group.

http://www.personalityresearch.org/papers/lumbert.html is some quasi pseudo psychology stuff that might relate to stuff I've just said - you judge, it was like link 5 on google.
Until next time http://www.swaytech.com/Whistle.mp3 ... nope just doesn't work without the others there! OK Then for thsoe of you that the last didn't have a nostalgic effect on try this... http://www.swaytech.com/dadudada.mp3

1 Comments:

Pepperpot said...

Love the paragraphs

8:24 PM  

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