Generation Y is a kind generation. Our conservative lifestyles and penchants for quiet opinions have led us to work together happily with healthy doses of idealism. We are a teamwork generation, fully in line with each other.
Top-down management and the clutch of hierarchal authority no longer illustrate the strokes of success, but instead lead to siloed rows of depressed employees and opportunistic managers.
Gen Y, in contrast, is all about the team, preferring conformity inside the lines over pushing boundaries or ourselves. “In many respects,” psychology expert Jeremy Dean argues, “[these] norms have a beneficial effect, bolstering society’s foundations and keeping it from falling into chaos.”
We’re the soothing wall fountain over a fire of greed, instability and unethical behavior. We dislike ambiguity and risk and mitigate the risks that we have inherited accordingly. We “provide a stable and predictable social world, to regulate our behavior with each other.”
The world these group norms create are so safe and sound that one research study found that “groups don’t even need to be that well-established, people will conform to others with only the slightest encouragement.”
It’s incredibly easy for crowdsourcing and group-think to take over. The wisdom of the crowd is everywhere.
“The power of groups, the clout that crowds can exercise to get what they want, is nothing new,” one trend briefing reports. “What is new, however, is the dizzying ease with which likeminded, action-ready citizens and consumers can now go online and connect, group and ultimately exert influence on a global scale.”
We can no longer buy a camera without checking the product recommendations, go on a trip without researching hotel reviews, or visit a new restaurant without the prodding of a friend. Wikipedia is one of the best known examples of the concept at work. Revering social media “influencers” is another. Do other people like it? What do they think? Have they legitimized it, given it their stamp of approval and a gold star? And did their mother try it?
Such trends make it incredibly easy to live in society, but also threaten the individual mind, intuition and originality. Consensus isn’t all gravy.
“Unfortunately groups only rarely foment great ideas,” Dean reports, “because people in them are powerfully shaped by group norms: the unwritten rules which describe how individuals in a group ‘are’ and how they ‘ought’ to behave. Norms influence what people believe is right and wrong just as surely as real laws, but with none of the permanence or transparency of written regulations.”
Teamwork threatens creativity.
Reverting back to a command and control structure is obviously not the answer, but decentralized leadership doesn’t mean we all have to hold hands. We can’t let the pendulum swing so far from one extreme to the other that we miss that happy medium where innovation soars.
Groups do such a good job breeding mediocrity that we can’t be so afraid to be alone and listen to the sound of our own voice and let out a real note while we lip-synch. March to the beat of our own drum as it goes. We can’t be afraid to sit with our own thoughts where that nugget just needs some dedicated commitment to the state of flow to turn into something wonderful.
Groups are for brainstorms, not conclusions. Teamwork is for energy, not leadership. Conformity is overrated.
And while it’s important to be the healing generation, the calm ones, the group that will bring people together to make things okay again, there’s no reason not to leave some solitary footprints on another path for future generations to follow.