By Gutman Braun
There seems to be this reality that exists wherever humans function in groups. I know that this is not an incredible or deep revelation, but I’d like to share it anyway – especially since I’ve been watching this in action fairly recently:
In a certain corporation that I had some interaction with, the management personnel generally made it to where they are, and achieved success, merely by being able to use force of conviction to make it sound like they have the answers. Here’s a typical meeting:
Assembled to discuss problems with the technology they are using (and how to solve those problems) are managers, technical experts and various employees (such as programmers, users and troubleshooters). Now, only a couple people there really understand the technology, while most of the assembled have only spotty understanding of those inner workings. Invariably, management personnel automatically begin stating the problems and prescribing solutions – dictating orders as to how the problem will be handled.
However, they tend to be the least knowledgeable. Moreover, even their understanding of the problem is generally not accurate – and they seldom (for some odd reason), if ever, seriously consult the individuals who are most likely to grasp the challenges and who have the knowledge to propose good solutions. The assembled participants of the meeting should, and I think do, know this – yet, they happily remain silent and are ready and willing to follow orders, regardless of the fact that it makes little (if any) sense. If they’re lucky, one of the truly knowledgeable individuals may attempt to steer the managers and the conversation towards a sensible direction (and this is also fascinating to watch) – but it’s not always the case and it’s not always accepted.
My point is that this dynamic seems to highlight how humans like to function: Those who climb the ladder of success are most often not those who are correct, rather, they are merely those who speak with conviction and an authoritative tone while ensuring that they maintain the peoples trust (which is actually not all that hard to do). And this is true everywhere: Religious leaders succeed primarily because humans suffer from such great uncertainly that they will give almost anything to have someone just tell them the way it is – and what a relief it is to find such a person! And if you think we don’t all do this somewhat, let me point to something that I have always found to be amazing:
Take, for example, a reputable newspaper article, book, etc. If we know very little about the subject matter, we generally trust the article to be fairly accurate – however, when we are familiar with the topic, we almost always find the article to be full of inaccuracies and mistakes. Thus, knowing as we do, that they’re almost always wrong when it comes to things that we know about, shouldn’t we consider all the information that we read or are told about as highly suspect?
And the answer must be a resounding ‘NO,’ It’s just way too hard (impossible, really) for humans to verify every bit of information we encounter. We are hard-wired to accept information that passes our first line of defense (i.e. it comes from a source that we don’t reject and it doesn’t conflict with the way we are already inclined to think). Therefore, to a great extent, leaders of all groups succeed through force of personality and conviction, and the followers are comfortable with that (often knowingly). Thus, for the sense of security that the individual will gain by trusting in the Rabbi, Priest, Manager, etc, most of us will gladly give up truth.
Only a very small percent of us prefer the road less taken.