I still remember a Dr. Pepper television commercial from nearly half a century ago. A long row of people line-dancing, in perfect sync, singing together, “Be original!” The irony seemed lost on the rest of the world.
We human beings love to think of ourselves as non-conformists. But few things terrify us more than breaking from the crowd. That fear turns us into tribal creatures, which makes us susceptible to groupthink. And even when it doesn’t, it may compel us to hold our tongues rather than risk speaking out against conventional thinking or popular opinion. And that can prove catastrophic.
If this sounds like hyperbole, don’t be so sure. It’s not just that we are what we think. By failing to speak up, we become what other people think, even if we think otherwise. Because allowing the few to dominate the narrative creates the illusion that the few speak for the many.
And, according to Todd Rose:
The illusion of one generation tends to become the private opinion of the next generation.