Have You Seen These

Don’think Groupthink

Every Friday at 12:30 EST, folks jump on Twitter to monitor the #SMEMchat hashtag and discuss the latest and greatest issues related to using social media tools in emergency situations.  Work prevents me from being a regular participant (yeah, I know it’s a Friday, but what can I say? I’m a busy guy!). But, I weigh in when I can.

The cool thing about this chat is several thought leaders in social media in emergency management contribute.  The shared collective wisdom and dialogue is often enlightening and prophetic. Almost all chats are archived, including last Friday’s #SMEMchat.

Just as I can predict that it is going to rain in the next six months in Seattle, I can count on my #SMEM “peeps” for the following during these chats:

  • Exploring new uses for social media in crisis response,
  • Championing using volunteers for social media intelligence gathering, data aggregation and curation during crisis.
  • Good natured ribbing…some of it “inside baseball” type stuff.
  • Encouragement and support of each other and new chat participants.
  • Respect for diverging opinions.
  • Challenging each other to defend their position if viewed as “entrenched”.

Last Friday’s chat had most of the elements listed above and then some.  Patrice Cloutier, who I respect immensely as a emergency management professional and frequent chat participant, shares his views about last week’s chat here.

After the chat was over, the conversation and analysis of the issue continued online.  One comment made me pause, as a person noted their reluctance to participate in the #SMEMchat because it tended to be an exercise in “groupthink”.   Hmmm… Groupthink…. A strong statement.

I know a little bit about groupthink. Studied it in college….Pearl Harbor, Bay of Pigs….

Groupthink, a term coined by a social psychologist in the early 70’s describes what happens when a group of people grappling  with an issue make poor decisions because of internal group influences and  pressure to conform, regardless of the group’s original mission. I can look back on some decisions I’ve been involved with that probably fit the profile as well… But, I digress.

Reviewing last Friday’s dialogue, I can see why someone could think that groupthink was in play.   “Outsider” opinions were challenged, with perspectives and dialogue became somewhat entrenched and curt on both sides of the issue.  Does this mean #SMEMchat is a groupthink exercise? I think not.

My experience with #SMEMchat has been anything but an exercise in groupthink.  Besides the usual cast of characters comprised of stalwarts, noisemakers, peacemakers and wannabe SM experts (me included), I often see new players who dip their toes in the turbulent waters, sharing their perspective.  This can be tough to do with sometimes 3-4 conversations taking place at the same time.    The debate can be rigorous, edgy, confusing and frustrating.  I would argue that this dynamic helps prevent groupthink.

If you don’t believe me, bring up the subject of pre-defined hashtags for emergency events at Fridays #SMEMchat. Then, sit back and watch the fireworks!

About chiefb2

Retired fire chief ,Type 3 AHIMT IC, PIO, Fire service consultant. Social media emergency management disciple (no, I'm not a "guru"). Crisis communications consultant. Father and Grandpa with an open wallet.