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An echo-chamber of ideas and opinions

A couple of weeks ago, someone said something that sounded really smart.

The idea seemed bold, incisive and very original....until I heard it again a little bit later from someone else... and then once more from yet another person. Each of these people seemed to imply they came up with the idea themselves.

Now there are very few truly original ideas. Most of us come up with stuff by applying what we've learned in another domains to a new one, or by building on the work of others. The most "original" ideas and thoughts can come from the conscious or unconscious application of standard tools, patterns, and frameworks to new field and applications. (A professor I had once said" Convert every problem to a nail so that you can use this hammer that you have") So variance in ideas can come from either applying different tools and patterns, or learning from different sources.

However, over time (especially in small groups where everyone gets really busy and everyone has similar backgrounds), there is the danger of everyone having access to the same sources of information/learning and using the same tools/methodology, and hence generating very similar ideas/opinions. In a company, this of course becomes harder to fight against, as people have a strong tendency to (knowingly or unknowingly) arrive at the same conclusion as people higher-up in the management chain.

Groupthink is always dangerous to any company. The kind of groupthink, where people don't even realize its happening is even worse. I don't think this is anywhere close to being a problem at Google as a whole yet. If anything, there are too many different ideas/opinions floating about .:) But it was interesting to me that I caught this.

In my case, I think my annoying default tendency to ask "Why could this be wrong?" every time someone says something protects me to some extent, but my tendency to be only too willing to concede a point to the other person leaves me a little vulnerable. I've also realized that since starting work the hectic schedule means the breadth of what I read and opinions I'm exposed to has reduced, as has the time I spend randomly surfing the net about stuff that seems semi-interesting, so that's something to watch out for...


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