PDA

View Full Version : Groupthink Problems in Training ?


Please visit our sponsor:
 

AikiWeb Sponsored Links - Place your Aikido link here for only $10!


Erick Mead
03-27-2009, 03:06 PM
I have from time to time wondered whether aspects of "groupthink" are in operation in some training approaches or discussions about training.

Do you see any aspects of groupthink in your training, or in any training discussions on aikido, generally, that concern you?

Irving Janis probably most thoroughly explored the concept of this pattern of behavior and described the phenomenon and identified its symptoms and negative effects:

[Groupthink] A mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members' strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.

Symptoms

1. Illusions of superiority creating excessive optimism and encouraging incautious behavior.
2. Rationalizing warnings or criticisms that might challenge the group's assumptions.
3. Unquestioned belief in the morality of the group, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.
4. Stereotyping those who are opposed to the group as weak, evil, disfigured, impotent, or stupid.
5. Direct pressure to conform placed on any member who questions the group, couched in terms of "disloyalty".
6. Self censorship of ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.
7. Illusions of unanimity among group members, silence is viewed as agreement.
8. Mindguards self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting information.

Effects

1. Incomplete survey of alternatives
2. Incomplete survey of objectives
3. Failure to examine risks of preferred choice
4. Failure to reevaluate previously rejected alternatives
5. Poor information search
6. Selection bias in collecting information
7. Failure to work out contingency plans.

Janet Rosen
03-27-2009, 06:28 PM
Most dojos do this - the only right way to fall is with inside leg first; the only right way to fall is with outside leg first; toes are tucked for falling; toes are "live" for falling...Entire sets of rules like this are based on a (usually unspoken) basic assumption about the respective role of uke and nage. The rule probably makes sense within that dojo's system but not as an absolute in the larger world.

jxa127
03-27-2009, 06:51 PM
Eric,

In my experience there's always a bit of this in any group. Dojos are no exception. In my opinion, a certain level of this is healthy. You have to "buy in" to the way things are done at the dojo and try to understand them before you can have an informed opinion.

To my mind a more interesting question is how you avoid the dangers of groupthink. The following are all good ways to combat groupthink: going to seminars, working with people who do things differently, staying humble, and being willing to retool your practice when you have evidence that something you're doing needs to change.

Most importantly (again in my opinion) is the willingness to test your assumptions and be ready to fail. The same tradition that gives us shu-ha-ri also gives us a tradition of testing oneself against various masters and becoming a student of the one that defeats you.

I wonder how tough it is for senior instructors though. As a student, I've been frustrated from time to time when my instructor would change the way we do things based on something he learned or was told -- especially when I believed that the previous way of doing things was superior for whatever reason I was taught.

Just some thoughts,

Budd
03-27-2009, 08:36 PM
Hi Drew!

It's tricky, but I think the bottom line comes down to "Are you able to walk the walk along with talking the talk?" . . you know? And seeing what other people are doing is not usually a bad thing, by my estimation (if only to reinforce your own sense of superiority . . just sayin')

ChrisHein
03-27-2009, 09:43 PM
HAHAHA,

Awesome!

Aikidoka are so involved in "group think"!

Avoiding the group think is the tricky part. You can do this by honestly testing your stuff on outside sources. People not involved in, and do not wish to be involved in your "group think".

Few schools have the courage to do this. Going to seminars, and training with others who have similar a mentality (systema, most Japanese Jujutsu's, etc) won't help. This is because they all want the same thing; some kind of magic martial art. Faking the magic for your martial art just helps justify the magic in my martial arts.

To test yourself you must find people who don't like what you're doing, or who, at the least don't care about what you're doing.

Erick Mead
03-27-2009, 10:05 PM
HAHAHA,

Awesome!

Aikidoka are so involved in "group think"! What prompted it was watching the development of a certain mode of observation and criticism (valid enough as far as it goes as to some ways of doign things in some places). But in the development there seemed some of that same tendency that did exist in some approaches to Aikido -- and then seeing that group of critics calve off into the same manner -- just with a different orientation. Plus ca change, I suppose.
Avoiding the group think is the tricky part. You can do this by honestly testing your stuff on outside sources. People not involved in, and do not wish to be involved in your "group think". ... Going to seminars, and training with others who have similar a mentality (systema, most Japanese Jujutsu's, etc) won't help. This is because they all want the same thing; some kind of magic martial art. Faking the magic for your martial art just helps justify the magic in my martial arts. As you suggest, though, one might easily fall subject to the "new, improved" version of the same thing. Or a whole sequential list of them -- and that way lies a lot of disillusionment, from what I have seen.

I spent about ten years being in the Navy -- but never really of the Navy. I was always the man standing near but apart, and still am, in most things.

To test yourself you must find people who don't like what you're doing, or who, at the least don't care about what you're doing.The most fruitful time I ever spent in training was, -- again gratis the Navy -- two six-month deployments without another martial artist aboard ship, totally solo training. One might fall into to magic-think as a lie to oneself and others to impress other people -- but all alone, I mean -- really-- who are you going to impress? Not the deck-apes laughing at your slow shadow-boxing -- lemme tell ya. It enforces critical thinking and awareness, and the need to ignore needless distraction.

I suppose one could "groupthink" as an "army of one" but that couldn't happen to me -- I was in the NAVY ... ;)

'Course, the deckapes get quieter when you start whipping that broomstick around... :D

Buck
03-28-2009, 12:33 AM
I have from time to time wondered whether aspects of "groupthink" are in operation in some training approaches or discussions about training.

Do you see any aspects of groupthink in your training, or in any training discussions on aikido, generally, that concern you?


Naw, not groupthink. The Japanese martial arts are a dictatorship. If it isn't a dictatorship, it ain't Aikido.

Groupthink, is when a bunch of people get together like the last Adminstration and F@$% up the country and the world, then having us pay for it.

Peter Goldsbury
03-28-2009, 08:11 AM
I have from time to time wondered whether aspects of "groupthink" are in operation in some training approaches or discussions about training.

Do you see any aspects of groupthink in your training, or in any training discussions on aikido, generally, that concern you?

Irving Janis probably most thoroughly explored the concept of this pattern of behavior and described the phenomenon and identified its symptoms and negative effects:

Hello Erick,

I think there is a paradox here, which the researches of Irving Janis and those who came after him do not dispel. Takeda Sokaku wandered round Japan and honed his martial skills by going from teacher to teacher. As did Morihei Ueshiba. Both were 'loners'.

In the Kobukan, however, Ueshiba created a dojo that exhibited many of the signs summarized by Janis in your first post. This is even more true of the Sakurakai meetings that took place in the Kobukan dojo in 1931. Wartime Japan (1931-1945) was a supreme example of groupthink on a national scale, except that it was not seen in the way that Janis describes.

I believe that the issues are more complex than is suggested by your summary of Irving Janis's research, which is firmly based on the assumption that groupthink is an aberration of values that place the foundation of cognitive and moral thinking in the individual, not the group. So I have issues with the terms in which Janis couches his view of the problem. 'Groupthink' sounds Orwellian and 'bad', but I live in a culture where shudan-ishiki (another, far less pejorative, term for 'groupthink'), usually compared favorably with kojin-ishiki, is very much alive and flourishing.

Janis made some 'case studies', of Pearl Harbor, the Bay of Pigs and the Korean War and compared them with the 'good' cases, like the Marshall Plan and Kennedy's handling of the Cuban missile crisis.

I wonder whether Janis looked at Pearl Harbor from the other side and studied how Yamamoto pushed his idea of a surprise attack on the US base past a Japanese military where groupthink (in a good sense) was the norm. Examples like 731 and the 'Rape' of Nanking' show the extent to which the Japanese version of groupthink can be perverted.

To what extent did Mitsugi Saotome show signs of groupthink when he established the ASU, or Yoshimitsu Yamada, when he established the USAF?

I ask because I think that the governing concepts, of Irving Janis and William H Whyte, are too narrow to bear that weight that can be put on them. So I suggest that shudan ishiki dominates postwar aikido in Japan. It is a postwar version adapted by Kisshomaru Ueshiba from an earlier training methodology that was used by Takeda and Ueshiba. I also suggest that kojin ishiki dominates postwar aikido in the US and that the shudan ishiki beloved of the Japanese is seen as an aberration.

However, Hiroshi Tada once told me in a private conversation that aikido was basically a solitary activity. Interaction with your partner / uke / attacker serves only to tell you where you are on your own personal training scale.

Best wishes,

PAG

Marc Abrams
03-28-2009, 09:21 AM
Erick:

Industrial and organizational psychologist's bread and butter is addressing "groupthink." Honesty and integrity from those within an organization to step outside of the proverbial box and/or bring in outside opinions is a critical component in helping to address this very common process. Applying these same "checks and balances" within our training is in my opinion, absolutely necessary to truly improve.

I respectfully disagree with Chris's contention "Few schools have the courage to do this. Going to seminars, and training with others who have similar a mentality (systema, most Japanese Jujutsu's, etc) won't help. This is because they all want the same thing; some kind of magic martial art. Faking the magic for your martial art just helps justify the magic in my martial arts." I believe that he is simply overgeneralizing from his own experiences.

I have stated before in the past and will state it again. Stanley Pranin did the Aikido world an invaluable service by creating and running the Aiki Expos in this country. Stanley had the courage to create a venue where open-minded martial artists were able to challenge their belief systems in a safe and collaborative manner so that the trend towards "groupthink" within our Aikido community came face-to-face with a "larger reality." I am glad that Jun has put together Aikiweb seminars to try and do something similar on a smaller scale. I know a growing number of us out there who continue to do things like those seminars on an even smaller scale. I think that this trend bodes well for Aikido in the US.

Marc Abrams

Marc Abrams

Erick Mead
03-28-2009, 10:14 AM
I think there is a paradox here, which the researches of Irving Janis and those who came after him do not dispel. Takeda Sokaku wandered round Japan and honed his martial skills by going from teacher to teacher. As did Morihei Ueshiba. Both were 'loners'. And both innovators ( especially if one sees Takeda as shaping the "lineage" for some of his own essentially novel thinking) -- but I agree with your point on paradox -- which is illustrated by the fact that both were TERRIBLE systematizers, which is necessary for broader transmission of ideas in any endeavor. They both left that aspect to (several of) their respective students.

I believe that the issues are more complex than is suggested by your summary of Irving Janis's research, which is firmly based on the assumption that groupthink is an aberration of values that place the foundation of cognitive and moral thinking in the individual, not the group....

So I have issues with the terms in which Janis couches his view of the problem. 'Groupthink' sounds Orwellian and 'bad', but I live in a culture where shudan-ishiki (another, far less pejorative, term for 'groupthink'), usually compared favorably with kojin-ishiki, is very much alive and flourishing.
Actually I don't read him that way, although the limited aspect presented in the initial post might suggest that. Janis clearly placed value on sound decision-making, both individual and collective. "Groupthink" is a distinctly pathological term in these regards but not, as some seem to take it as favoring individual over collective decison per se. The observations on groupthink are illustrations of a certain pattern of defects in collective decision-making. There are, of course. many other types of collective error that can occur. And individuals are susceptible to types of error that are proper to them and not found in group decisions.

The two biases, if you will, collective and individual, very broadly speaking have complementary forms of error, and Janis's published corrective to the groupthink problem seem to reflect this sensibility.

So I suggest that shudan ishiki dominates postwar aikido in Japan. It is a postwar version adapted by Kisshomaru Ueshiba from an earlier training methodology that was used by Takeda and Ueshiba. I also suggest that kojin ishiki dominates postwar aikido in the US and that the shudan ishiki beloved of the Japanese is seen as an aberration.You need to come practice with us unreconstructed Florida rednecks and crackers, so we can disabuse you of such notions. :D We have a deep love for collective values in tradition -- and in personal responsibility for upholding them (typically, in the breach :p ) -- but a deep abhorrence of both collective decisions, merely for their own sake, and collective responsibility, of any kind. Maybe we are not typical of the broader American palette, but not so dissimilar either.

I cannot speak for Yamada and the impressionable sheep that are New Yorkers :p but if Saotome was seeking cultists to fall in worship he picked a poor place to do it in Florida and Virginia. (Washington D.C., of course, brooks no competition in leader- worship of any kind, so no worries there.)

More seriously, if I have the sense right, "kojin-isshiki" has connotations of "leader-cult" seen in both the New Religions and State Shinto, and "shudan-isshiki" is the group as means to a certain end, not an end itself. If I may suggest, the problem seems to be a distinction in the types of people drawn to aikido, of which on this issue, at least, there are, in broad brush, two types.

There are the specifically martially interested and aggressive types who have seen the moral and physical limitations of more overt violence, in whatever way their personal history teaches it to them. For them Aikido is a spiritual and physical adaption TO violence, which can never be removed from the reality of human existence.

Then there is the "seeker" who is "seeking" sometimes seriously sometimes less so, (something, the less serious often unsure quite what) and aikido is where they hang their hat at the moment, or for good, in an effort to transcend or transform violence in human existence. The seeming lapse of traditional religion is one reason for this -- and in that, this type is substituting, in the American case, various stripes of "new religion" of their own, typically of environmental deification or mysticism, or personal pastiches of vaguely Eastern thinking.

Some are innocuous, some less so. In this, there is a DIRECT parallel with the Japanese New Religions, whose operation occurs in the same vacuum of traditional religion, but from a more collective instead of individualist sensibility, but the same essential problem. They both are more susceptible to the "leader-cult" or kojin-isshiki mentality. They meet somewhere in the middle, I think.

ChrisHein
03-28-2009, 11:23 AM
"I believe that he is simply overgeneralizing from his own experiences."

I really like this. As if anyone can do different.

I personally don't think seminars, or hanging out with other Aikido folks, or like minded people is bad. It's simply not going to help you with any "group think" issues you have.

Talking to a wide range of people who have left Aikido, you'll find many of them left because of "group think" issues. When I was hanging out heavily with the MMA crowd, many of the guys had tried Aikido for a short period of time, and all of them complained about the over cooperative nature of Aikido. This lead to them feeling like they were not able gain anything from the training, because their methods were never "tested". This is why they went to MMA.

Erick Mead
03-28-2009, 09:12 PM
"I believe that he is simply overgeneralizing from his own experiences."

I really like this. As if anyone can do different. Well, one can generalize (or overgeneralize) from the experiences of others. Perhaps to better effect -- Confucius said (really, he did :) ) that one may learn, "First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest."

Talking to a wide range of people who have left Aikido, you'll find many of them left because of "group think" issues. When I was hanging out heavily with the MMA crowd, many of the guys had tried Aikido for a short period of time, and all of them complained about the over cooperative nature of Aikido. This lead to them feeling like they were not able gain anything from the training, because their methods were never "tested". This is why they went to MMA.I don't think that illustrates groupthink-- or any avoidance of it -- it seems more a difference of learning styles -- as above.

lifeafter2am
03-28-2009, 10:10 PM
I don't think that illustrates groupthink-- or any avoidance of it -- it seems more a difference of learning styles -- as above.

You are absolutely correct, the aforementioned quote has nothing to do with groupthink, at least not the way it was explained.

Peter Goldsbury
03-28-2009, 10:35 PM
More seriously, if I have the sense right, "kojin-isshiki" has connotations of "leader-cult" seen in both the New Religions and State Shinto, and "shudan-isshiki" is the group as means to a certain end, not an end itself. If I may suggest, the problem seems to be a distinction in the types of people drawn to aikido, of which on this issue, at least, there are, in broad brush, two types.

There are the specifically martially interested and aggressive types who have seen the moral and physical limitations of more overt violence, in whatever way their personal history teaches it to them. For them Aikido is a spiritual and physical adaption TO violence, which can never be removed from the reality of human existence.

Then there is the "seeker" who is "seeking" sometimes seriously sometimes less so, (something, the less serious often unsure quite what) and aikido is where they hang their hat at the moment, or for good, in an effort to transcend or transform violence in human existence. The seeming lapse of traditional religion is one reason for this -- and in that, this type is substituting, in the American case, various stripes of "new religion" of their own, typically of environmental deification or mysticism, or personal pastiches of vaguely Eastern thinking.

Some are innocuous, some less so. In this, there is a DIRECT parallel with the Japanese New Religions, whose operation occurs in the same vacuum of traditional religion, but from a more collective instead of individualist sensibility, but the same essential problem. They both are more susceptible to the "leader-cult" or kojin-isshiki mentality. They meet somewhere in the middle, I think.

I do not believe that 集団意識 and 個人意識 are tied to any attitudes concerning Shinto, the New Religions or to a leader cult. Evidence that they are / were, or might have been, needs to be produced or identified: it cannot be derived from the meaning of the terms themselves. The two terms tend to be used by modern Japanese to distinguish Japanese culture in general (based on group thinking) from 'western' culture in general (believed to be based on individual values & thinking).

One issue is whether 集団意識 has the same pejorative connotations as 'groupthink'. I do not think it has, at least as it is used here in Japan.

Josh Reyer
03-28-2009, 10:45 PM
"Ishiki" (one 's') simply means "consciousness, awareness". "Kojin-ishiki" refers to consciousness or awareness of one's self as an individual, while "shudan-ishiki" refers to consciousness or awareness of one's self as a member of a group. See Markus & Kitayama, 1991.

ChrisHein
03-29-2009, 12:56 AM
I don't think that illustrates groupthink-- or any avoidance of it -- it seems more a difference of learning styles -- as above.

That was not meant as an illustration of groupthink. That is simply the result of a "bitter experience" that many people had with Aikido.

I believe group think is however very responsible for Aikido's short comings. Which is the reason they left.

You are incorrect in your assumption that this is not an effective means of avoiding group think. It is the most effective way to avoid group think, simply leave the group. Then one can again become an individual.

Erick Mead
03-29-2009, 02:17 AM
I do not believe that 集団意識 and 個人意識 are tied to any attitudes concerning Shinto, the New Religions or to a leader cult. Evidence that they are / were, or might have been, needs to be produced or identified: it cannot be derived from the meaning of the terms themselves. The two terms tend to be used by modern Japanese to distinguish Japanese culture in general (based on group thinking) from 'western' culture in general (believed to be based on individual values & thinking).

One issue is whether 集団意識 has the same pejorative connotations as 'groupthink'. I do not think it has, at least as it is used here in Japan.I did not take either one as pejorative, and "groupthink" is a coin and term of art. But I was looking at the ramification of the thoughts themselves and how they play out -- especially here, given the examples cited. Is it not true that a notable Japanese who tends toward konjin-isshiki, often, if he stands out in some manner, talented. charismatic or persuasive, develops a following of people who then invest him as the focus of shudan-isshiki ? "Empire-building" we used to call it (derogatorily) in the Navy, of a certain pattern of behavior. Is that not what we are talking about? Is that not what happened with Deguchi? Ueshiba? And to a lesser extent Takeda? (lesser in terms of following, not importance).

Both New Religions and State Shinto (and Western "cult groups," for that matter) were very largely about self-aggrandizement -- ego magnification -- both for the leader and the led. As they are also mass movements, I know this is paradoxical, but these are people we are talking about and paradox is what we are.

As I see it this is more of a root human issue than it is a purely cultural one. It is shaped by culture, surely, but the same basic drive creates the cultural response. The follower feels special for seeing the "greatness of the cause" and being recognized by others for the importance of his contribution. The leader feels the rightness of the cause confirmed by the growing support of followers, and motivated to increase his effort by their trust in his vision. The cause -- whatever it is -- tends to become increasingly irrelevant in this dynamic. It's all about reinforcing the ego reflection in the relationship. That's in no small part what happened in Japan ca. 1920-1945, Italy and Germany, at about the same period, and who knows, may be happening in the U.S. under our noses as we speak.

Given the altogether unavoidable risks presented in the role of the Japanese emperor anyway, is this not your previously implied criticism of Hirohito's role in the War -- that he essentially started believing his own norito and thus removed one of the most important checks in the system after Meiji?

Janis's observations are really about finding aspects of healthy and unhealthy relationships between the two senses of one as an individual with rational and moral decisions to make disregarding social circumstance, and as member of a community that has related but different concerns of moral and practical action.

Janis's correctives work in both cultures: Every king needs a fool. Seek independent opinions not confirmations of conclusions. Work on a problem in parallel, not in sequence. Hedge your bets with well-developed minority positions. Encourage outside exploration. Invite outsiders in. Provoke someone to be a grumpy contrary bastard but happy enough to hang around and tear down the pretty illusions.

Peter Goldsbury
03-29-2009, 04:23 AM
More seriously, if I have the sense right, "kojin-isshiki" has connotations of "leader-cult" seen in both the New Religions and State Shinto, and "shudan-isshiki" is the group as means to a certain end, not an end itself.

My last post referred to your comment in Post #10, quote above.

I do not think you 'have the sense right', for the connotations you see are too distant from the meaning of the terms themselves, which, as I have used them, are part of the vocabulary of nihonjinron (which the Japanese themselves tend to believe).

In the dojo where I trained in the US, there were 'in-groups' ( = enjoying the warmth of Sensei's favor), and the colder 'outer darkness'. Some people left because (a) there were both groups i.e., there was a sort of dojo split, which was unacceptable, or (b) they were not in the former. Here in Japan, also, people leave aikido for various reasons, but they tend to join other groups.

PAG

Marc Abrams
03-29-2009, 08:41 AM
"I believe that he is simply overgeneralizing from his own experiences."

I really like this. As if anyone can do different.

I personally don't think seminars, or hanging out with other Aikido folks, or like minded people is bad. It's simply not going to help you with any "group think" issues you have.

Talking to a wide range of people who have left Aikido, you'll find many of them left because of "group think" issues. When I was hanging out heavily with the MMA crowd, many of the guys had tried Aikido for a short period of time, and all of them complained about the over cooperative nature of Aikido. This lead to them feeling like they were not able gain anything from the training, because their methods were never "tested". This is why they went to MMA.

Chris:

Thank you for confirming my beliefs :D If you cannot find a way to address "groupthink" within a group and simply have to leave it, then I would suggest that this is a problem that you might want to consider addressing at some point in time. There are a lot of examples of people within groups appropriately addressing groupthink within a group structure. I listed two in my previous post.

If people believe that they were not able to "test" their "Aikido" abilities within a traditional training paradigm, then they should possibly consider taking responsibility for their shortcomings. Then again, water always has a way of seekings it's own level ;)

Marc Abrams

Erick Mead
03-29-2009, 11:05 AM
My last post referred to your comment in Post #10, quote above.

I do not think you 'have the sense right', for the connotations you see are too distant from the meaning of the terms themselves, which, as I have used them, are part of the vocabulary of nihonjinron (which the Japanese themselves tend to believe). Thank you for the clarification. I was aware of the cultural sense of "Team Japan" and "Loner America" but not the nature of the precise terms used. "Connotation" was a poorly chosen, too narrow word on my part. Imikotoba are avoided because they have associations that are not strictly in the word avoided. That is also too blunt a sense for what I am getting after, and we in English have not the same types of taboo as the kotodama-driven imikotoba. But the thing that the kotodama sense gets after is not entirely absent in Western language, either. The tendency of a thought in a certain form when put in action is often larger and different from its strict denotation or use. Words have power beyond what they merely say in a given context. If not, then poetry would be a dead art. In this, I think speakers of both tongues can agree, even though the nature of the power is differently sensed or expressed in each.
In the dojo where I trained in the US, there were 'in-groups' ( = enjoying the warmth of Sensei's favor), and the colder 'outer darkness'. Some people left because (a) there were both groups i.e., there was a sort of dojo split, which was unacceptable, or (b) they were not in the former. Here in Japan, also, people leave aikido for various reasons, but they tend to join other groups. I may be slightly deaf to such issues because I have spent most of my life living on the borders of the "outer darkness," in those terms. I guess my comfort zone is between the heat of the fire and the cool of the night.

Most of the dojos I have trained in have been more, shall we say, "easygoing." Hawaii, California and of course, here, in God's Country. :D Not in terms of the training, far to the contrary. But in terms of the need to have a sense of dominance over the expectations of the students, there was little in the way you describe.

There is a fine line there. Too easygoing and there is no "glue" to hold a training group together. That was, in my view one of Saotome's key distinctions in emphasis -- Not his particular explanation of principles as such (although they have their points), but the sense that the organization and but the sense that the organizationand each dojo in turn is a group studying aspects of the same body of principles, as are each dojo and each student independently -- taking focus away from the organization as such, and returning it to the ostensible reason for the group's cohesion.

ChrisHein
03-29-2009, 12:20 PM
Chris:

Thank you for confirming my beliefs :D If you cannot find a way to address "groupthink" within a group and simply have to leave it, then I would suggest that this is a problem that you might want to consider addressing at some point in time. There are a lot of examples of people within groups appropriately addressing groupthink within a group structure. I listed two in my previous post.


I would list Chris Hein (that's me) as a guy who is currently addressing Aikido's problems (which he believes many are due to a groupthink mentality). That would be the reason I started an Aikido school...

However anyone interested in leaving Aikido should not be criticized . You personally like Aikido, so you deem anyone wishing to leave as weak (I'm paraphrasing your comments here).

However If someone left a group that you deemed "bad" you'd likely applaud their courageous efforts to leave.

You are confusing your own opinion with others actions. One might say you are overgeneralizing from your own experiences...I wouldn't say that though...

If you've wanted to be a gymnast your whole life, and once in the group the pressure is to much, maybe you should try sticking it out. That is an easy statement for most of us to make, because we (mostly) feel gymnastics is a worthwhile endeavor. (this isn't an example of group think, but an example of a person being overwhelmed)

However if one belongs to a cult, and they leave when they they see how strange and incestuous the group really is. Few of us would say, "you should really try and stick it out".


If people believe that they were not able to "test" their "Aikido" abilities within a traditional training paradigm, then they should possibly consider taking responsibility for their shortcomings. Then again, water always has a way of seekings it's own level ;)
Marc Abrams

This feels to me like you're making a snippy remark about how Aikido people are superior, and mma guys had to sink to a lower level to cope with their inadequacies. (this is an example of someone suffering from groupthink)

lifeafter2am
03-29-2009, 12:46 PM
This feels to me like you're making a snippy remark about how Aikido people are superior, and mma guys had to sink to a lower level to cope with their inadequacies. (this is an example of someone suffering from groupthink)

Chris,

This is not an example of groupthink. Groupthink is "poor decision making that results from certain group practices" (Spector, 2006). What you are speaking of would more likely be akin to an in-group bias. In group biases exist in many forms, but generally people within your same group are judged more favorably and those outside of ones group are judged as more negatively (Baron, Bryne, Branscombe, 2006). In this respect you are confusing what exactly groupthink is. Groupthink has to do with the actual decision making going on within a group; which is why it is some of the bread-and-butter work of the I/O psychologists. In-group and out-group differentiation is what I work with as a Social Psychologist and has to do with how people view others within the context of groups (well, at least one part of social psychology, there are other things we study as well). A little different than sociology which looks at the groups themselves.

Baron, R., Byrne, D., & Branscombe, N. (2006). Social psychology (11th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.

Spector, P.E. (2006). Industial and Organizational Psychology: Research and Practice (4th ed.). Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Marc Abrams
03-29-2009, 12:54 PM
I would list Chris Hein (that's me) as a guy who is currently addressing Aikido's group think problems. That would be the reason I started an Aikido school...

However anyone interested in leaving Aikido should not be criticized because it doesn't make them comfortable. You personally like Aikido, so you deem anyone wishing to leave as weak (I'm paraphrasing your comments here).

However If someone left a group that you deemed "bad" you'd likely applaud their courageous efforts to leave.

You are confusing your own opinion with others actions. One might say you are overgeneralizing from your own experiences...I wouldn't say that though...

If you've wanted to be a gymnast your whole life, and once in the group the pressure is to much, maybe you should try sticking it out. That is an easy statement for most of us to make, because we (mostly) feel gymnastics is a worthwhile endeavor. (this isn't an example of group think, but an example of a person being overwhelmed)

However if one belongs to a cult, and they don't leave when they they see how strange and incestuous the group really is. Few of us would say, "you should really try and stick it out".

This feels to me like you're making a snippy remark about how Aikido people are superior, and mma guys had to sink to a lower level to cope with their inadequacies. (this is an example of someone suffering from groupthink)

Chris:

Glad to hear you are out there addressing the "groupthink" problem!

You seem to have a problem with interpreting the words of others. You said: "However anyone interested in leaving Aikido should not be criticized because it doesn't make them comfortable. You personally like Aikido, so you deem anyone wishing to leave as weak (I'm paraphrasing your comments here)." That is not even close to what I was alluding to. Let me make it more explicit for you. There are plenty of ways to work out interaction issues within a group structure without having to leave the group structure. If a person does not have the "life skills" to go about and address this common issue within a group structure, then this is an area of significant potential growth. NO WHERE in this thought process is a concept of "weakness." That is simply your misinterpretation.

As to the second area in which you seem to miss my point, let me clarify that as well. People enter into, train and leave particular arts for a variety of personal reasons. Many people find that a particular art does not suite their character, needs, wants..... That is fine and dandy! What is all too common, is that these people justify the need to change by externalizing the reasons. Simply put, Ikeda Sensei put it best when he said something to the effect of: "Do not ask why Aikido does not work, but ask why MY Aikido does not work." Water always seems to seek it's own level. People are drawn to and stay with things that best suite the idiosyncratic juxtaposition of person and circumstance.

As to my opinions regarding "group think", and other areas regarding this particular area of psychology, they are relatively well-informed and educated opinions. Just happens to come with my training and profession. These opinions are NOT being confused with other people's actions. Once again, your misread. I have not even talked about my experiences in this thread, and yet you want to somehow allude to my overgeneralizing them.

You said: "This feels to me like you're making a snippy remark about how Aikido people are superior, and mma guys had to sink to a lower level to cope with their inadequacies. (this is an example of someone suffering from groupthink)"

This is perhaps the biggest and grossest distortion of all. This comment displays an absolute lack of any understanding of me, my background, my beliefs, opinions..... I would recommend you quit while you are behind.

Obviously I hit a raw nerve with you. That was not my intent. Your initial post put your own personal opinions about things as though they were fact, rather than simply stating that these were your opinions based upon your own experience base. My initial post CLEARLY STATED "I respectfully disagree with your position" and ended with talking about MY OPINION of what you had done. You have clearly broadened the scope and intent into some type of personal conflict to which I have no desire to engage in with you.

I would suggest that we stop making this public and personal. if you want to continue this discussion, do it through pm. Jun and everybody for that matter does not need to have to read this kind of stuff.

Marc Abrams

ChrisHein
03-29-2009, 02:19 PM
Refer to the original definition of the symptoms at the beginning of the thread.

1. Illusions of superiority

2. Rationalizing warnings of criticisms that might challenge the group assumptions

3. Unquestioned belief in the morality of the group.

4.stereotyping those who are opposed to the group as weak, evil, disfigured, impotent or stupid.

"If people believe that they were not able to "test" their "Aikido" abilities within a traditional training paradigm, then they should possibly consider taking responsibility for their shortcomings."

This statement suggests that those who leave Aikido because they feel they cannot test their Aikido by traditional (group) means have short comings. See 2. and 4.


"Then again, water always has a way of seekings it's own level"

This statement suggests that those with shortcomings tend to sink to a lower level. See 1. 3. and 4.

DH
03-29-2009, 03:47 PM
1. Bring armor, and various weapons to a MMA ring focused class
2. Bring MMA live training approaches to a traditional art class
3. Bring the ground and pound to a BJJ class
4. Bring armor and Shinai to a Koryu class
5. Bring aiki (internal power as the uke) to an Aikido class
6. Mix them all up.

One of the most profound failures in "thinking outside of the box" is an assumption that people know full well everything that is in the box. Next, just what is worth learning as a set of skills worth inculcating and "thinking" about all while outside of it.
In order
1. Not everyone is capable of wielding that weapon in any meaningful way sufficient enough to make the point.
2. You need to have done this on both sides of the fence to appreciate what to leave, what to modify and what to throw away.
3. You need to know the ground before the ground and pound has real meaning
4. You need to know weapons and kata before freestyle approaches make any tactical sense
5. This is one of the toughest of all. You need to have some measureable and testable internal skills of course, but not everyone can truly fight with them and understand where and how they can be devastating to the normally trained MA person or even why. And to do that you need to have some fairly serious knowledge of fighting and how the body works in combatives and how to take them apart.
6. Good luck, all bets are off and you need to find qualified people willing to experiment without having to "respresent" (read protectionism) ego, or hype. Not all will dig in and just do the work. Most do not have it in them to enter into this range of work, and often dismiss those who do.

So group thinking in boxes and preventing "group thinking" outside of them can be an interesting dilemma.
Cheers
Dan

ChrisHein
03-29-2009, 05:29 PM
I'm not trying to argue that MMA, or Aikido, or Kendo or any other martial art is superior or inferior to another.

I'm sorry if I gave that impression.

Michael Varin
03-29-2009, 05:48 PM
Nice post, Dan.

I like it.

DH
03-29-2009, 05:53 PM
I'm not trying to argue that MMA, or Aikido, or Kendo or any other martial art is superior or inferior to another.

I'm sorry if I gave that impression.
Nor am I
I was discussing it in a martial context in that there are various ways to affect a foundational shift in "group think" by outside stimulus antithetical to the model created and fostered by a group-maybe created in isolation.
On a basic level "group think" is a result of training and believing in the veracity of a model agreed to by any one group. We can try analogy and metaphor, and dig into the many tributaries it can lead us down for discussion sake, but in the end, in MA it is really rather simple.

I was trying to outline that the outside stimulus has problems of credibility all its own-and in many respects the source or origin of the outside stimulus- looked at as a model all its own- might be as suspectable to "group think" as the group it is trying to affect. Hence the "idea" of a broader discussion.
Whether discussing effectiveness, or better training models to produce greater results in a given model. Whether it is martially effective, sport, or cooperative-movement as a hobby doesn't matter. Its training methodologies and a means to whatever ends you may be looking for.
Case in point:
On the effectivess end I have seen a lot of weapons work intorduced to "break group think" that was not worth the effort for either party and led to false assumption, which created a whole new group think model.
On the spiritual end I have seen groups meditating and giving lectures more akin to new age animist beliefs all while openly stating they were fostering the training of the founder. They really didn't have one single clue what they were doing or talking about. That "group" was working under and within the authority of an 8th dan Aikido teacher. Thus creating a group think model that was authorized and yet was contained materials that were misunderstood, misdirected, or made up entirely out of whole cloth.
In both cases it becomes a challenge for an outside source to introduce valuable information that is
a) accurate
b) usable by the group
c) gets accepted in the first place.
None of which is an easy task.

Cheers
Dan

Ron Tisdale
03-29-2009, 07:13 PM
Sometimes the only thing you can do with group think is to leave it. This recently got impressed upon me once again.

Best,
Ron

Marc Abrams
03-29-2009, 07:22 PM
Sometimes the only thing you can do with group think is to leave it. This recently got impressed upon me once again.

Best,
Ron

Ron:

Sadly, that is sometimes true. Dan made good points as to how hard it is to change the group think process. There are two very entrenched factors at play. One is related to Cognitive Dissonance Theory and the other is related to the propensity of any system to maintain dynamic equilibrium in order to remain an active, self-sustaining system.

I think that we are truly lucky if we can train in, or create a safe training atmosphere that allows us to not get "stuck" in a group think process. There are certainly enough good teachers and open-minded individuals in the Aikido world to keep me optimistic.

Marc Abrams

jason jordan
03-29-2009, 10:25 PM
This is a great post, in which for once I actually read each post and argument. I posted a topic a day or so ago and I think this is basically the underlying thought of what I was trying to get across. I think if we watch enough "Youtube" and other clips out there, that we will see "Groupthink" in action.

I won't elaborate tonight, I'll just say great post.

Michael Varin
03-30-2009, 03:30 AM
Compare this:
If you cannot find a way to address "groupthink" within a group and simply have to leave it, then I would suggest that this is a problem that you might want to consider addressing at some point in time.

And:
There are plenty of ways to work out interaction issues within a group structure without having to leave the group structure. If a person does not have the "life skills" to go about and address this common issue within a group structure, then this is an area of significant potential growth.

To:
Sometimes the only thing you can do with group think is to leave it. This recently got impressed upon me once again.
Ron:

Sadly, that is sometimes true. Dan made good points as to how hard it is to change the group think process.

Is lack of consistency a symptom of groupthink or in-group bias? I didn't see it on the list. ;)

Marc Abrams
03-30-2009, 07:40 AM
Compare this:

And:

To:

Is lack of consistency a symptom of groupthink or in-group bias? I didn't see it on the list. ;)

Michael:

I see you come from the same dojo as Chris. Chris and I finally take this to a pm level and then look what pops up. No inconsistency on my end, just a closed mind on your end with a predisposition to come to a foregone conclusion. I simply outlined the process of first trying to address a systemic problem from within before making the decision to leave a system. I suggest you take this to a pm level as well if you want to continue as a proxy for Chris.

Marc Abrams

DH
03-30-2009, 10:33 AM
Marc
Good post #30
It has not escaped my notice that you are putting your money where your.....thoughts are on this issue.
All the best
Dan

DH
03-31-2009, 09:19 AM
Would anyone like to consider the Japanese "group think" and how it created the ukemi model?

How is it different from the classical grappling model of constant change of forces; receiving and giving back ?
The ICM model of constant change in pushing-receiving and giving back?
The Karate model of give and take
the boxing model of give and take

What group think mentality thought up the idea of "receiving" only, or worse of "falling down" as a viable protective mechanism in the first place, that later turned into the one sided means to train and transmit arts. Since most of the known world saw a rationale behind "change" (of incoming force) what led a whole group to see "receive" as a better way?
Cheers
Dan

Marc Abrams
03-31-2009, 12:07 PM
Would anyone like to consider the Japanese "group think" and how it created the ukemi model?

How is it different from the classical grappling model of constant change of forces; receiving and giving back ?
The ICM model of constant change in pushing-receiving and giving back?
The Karate model of give and take
the boxing model of give and take

What group think mentality thought up the idea of "receiving" only, or worse of "falling down" as a viable protective mechanism in the first place, that later turned into the one sided means to train and transmit arts. Since most of the known world saw a rationale behind "change" (of incoming force) what led a whole group to see "receive" as a better way?
Cheers
Dan

Dan:

In my own opinion and limited experience, I think that your perception is too limiting and only part of a particular training paradigm. If it were simply limited to that description, I would concur totally with your opinion. I think that too many people train to take falls. The nage creates dangerous openings to be struck by doing so, and the uke creates dangerous conditions by simply "flying" or falling.

Ukemi is certainly the act of receiving, but I perceive that there are distinct an important stages in this process. At it's most basic level, ukemi should serve to allow a person who has been taken off balance, to be able to create a safer "space" in order to continuing to function/live. The human body marshals resources to help a body maintain dynamic equilibrium. This means that the strength that a person thinks that he/she has will actually not really be there when having to stabilize the body. In that situation, the roll, fall or "fly away fall" serves a useful purpose. Practice SHOULD be done in a manner in which the nage does not create vulnerable openings in order to allow the uke to fall, and the uke should not have the option of whether or not to fall, roll.....

To me, ukemi at the next level involves receiving the force so as to neutralize it before you are taken off balance and/or struck. This is not an easy level of practice for both parties. It can be very frustrating for a nage, if the nage is not perfectly accepting of this level of practice. It can be dangerous for an uke who mistakenly locks in place, thereby opening one's self to potentially more destructive attacks.

To me, ukemi at the highest level involved receiving the energy and immediately utilizing the energy to perform another technique. Instead of kaeshi waza, it becomes this fluid connection.

I would venture a guess that in traditional training, the teacher takes ukemi as a means of teaching technique. Since Aikido does not utilize this model very often, I think that it has become an almost stereotyped kind of ukemi practice that has developed among many. I would not necessarily say that it presents what ukemi can become or how some high level teachers do teach it to some of their students.

I may be totally off on that, but it is my 2 cents at least, and how I approach that topic.

Marc Abrams

Erick Mead
03-31-2009, 12:33 PM
Would anyone like to consider the Japanese "group think" and how it created the ukemi model?

How is it different from the classical grappling model of constant change of forces; receiving and giving back ?
The ICM model of constant change in pushing-receiving and giving back?
The Karate model of give and take
the boxing model of give and take

What group think mentality thought up the idea of "receiving" only, or worse of "falling down" as a viable protective mechanism in the first place, that later turned into the one sided means to train and transmit arts. Since most of the known world saw a rationale behind "change" (of incoming force) what led a whole group to see "receive" as a better way?None. It isn't a groupthink issue, but an objective training approach. The pattern assumed is not the pattern that actually exists. The teaching is NOT simply "receive. " It is "receive first -- THEN..." The difference between "change of incoming force" and "non-resistance" in the sense given by the principle of juuji, is not merely a difference of degree but of kind.

One cannot obtain a connection without first receiving -- the opposite is simply impact of opposed forces. "Change of incoming force" can be simplistic -- overcome an incoming force with a force opposite in sign and larger in magnitude, but that is not aiki -- heck, it's not even good karate. The greater force always wins. Poor strategy in terms of conserving resources, if nothing else.

On the other hand, a vector sum, with some opposed resisting force still in the vector of attack, still has the greater force in the contending vector line controlling the resultant. This is leverage, and in opposition, counter-leverage. Leverage always creates a perpendicular shear load. That shear load diminishes the effective force in the leverage. Two increasingly opposed leverages will generally tend to break the material at the common fulcrum in a bending shear.

The application of precisely perpendicular force, on the other hand, (Aiki -- the "third hand" ;) ) can be exceedingly minimal and yet devastate the structural stability of the attacking structure -- without (necessarily) breaking its material. This is pure shear, wihtout bending, taking the inherent and irreducible weakness of the leveraged force in opposition and applying that shear directly. Basically, in shear, if he pushes -- it goes sideways; if he pulls -- it goes sideways; if he cranks -- it goes sideways in a circle.

But -- and this is a big but -- for MOST beginners it generally only works if they first allow the leverage of the attack to create an initial shear vector to guide them. If I try to create the external leverage -- the shear works against me, rather than for me. This is why the ukemi, the receiving, lets one then "pile onto" the resulting shear in response because there can be no resisting it -- IF he wishes to maintain his attack, he simply adds to the shear that the aiki is already exploiting.

To actually initiate action in pure shear is highly counter-intuitive, to most people. Training first in the reactive form, dealing with an applied leverage allows one to see the internal effect of compensating in shear, before one can see the initiatory form of pure shear without the initiating leverage to guide them. This is, I think the majority position in terms of preferred learning styles among aikidoka. For this reason I don't think the balance of training approaches in aikido will change in the near future, if ever, for a better understanding of what the more common approach seeks to accomplish, it is useful to examine both.

Basically, an initiating shear works by inducing the internal "compensation" an applied leverage would create, but before any external load actualyl exists. Then that is "released" into the inherent shear of the attack on contact. The "no-inch punch" is a common demonstration of this in a more static form. One might accurately describe the alternate approach as "taking ukemi" just before the attacking load is applied, and then letting it go again. The result is an attack that evaporates into the applied shear.

I am not disputing that there may be several ways of teaching pure shear as aiki in a non-reactive manner initially, but the counter-intuitive aspect is no less a hurdle to overcome -- regardless of the preferred approach. That alternate approach is, I believe, a minority position in terms of learning styles in the population of aiki practitioners.

The aid of the external application creates a clearly perceptible and unambiguous internal load, and is VERY hard to duplicate or simulate accurately for the unlearned in an unloaded condition. Although one can plainly see that things like Akuzawa is teaching do precisely this, the loaded condition is also one that occurs in real situations and so it is not merely a "training wheel" scenario for the other approach.

The preference for one or the other approach is essentially one of learning style. Although a person with a learning style not suited to the majority of learners' preferred approach -- will have greater difficulty adapting, this is not groupthink -- it is simply a "lack of fit" because of a minority learning preference. The fact that this learning style issue occurs on a non-verbal, cerebellar "seat of the pants" level, makes it very hard to talk about, or even agree on terms to talk about it -- and therefore it has become the cause of far more dissension than there really should be about it.

DH
03-31-2009, 12:55 PM
Dan:

In my own opinion and limited experience, I think that your perception is too limiting and only part of a particular training paradigm. If it were simply limited to that description, I would concur totally with your opinion. I think that too many people train to take falls. The nage creates dangerous openings to be struck by doing so, and the uke creates dangerous conditions by simply "flying" or falling.

Hello Marc
I think you are actually agreeing with my example!
As your opening paragraph re-states my point "too many train to take falls"..etc etc.. Did you think I was stating it as an absolute? Nope! Just a common group think hence the reply.

Far too many people train to receive and take waza as a fall as "the receiving" instead of changing it and nuetralizing it and remain standing to deliver back. It has become the overwhelming "norm" in group think as displayed in what now amounts to tens of thousands of hours of video to that effect. Were it not so the result would not look like the model demonstrated everywhere. it would look more like grappling or push hands.
My opinion and your own do not really matter much when they stand in the face of all that evidence of old and current aikido training. The method and the choices are obvious.

To me, ukemi at the next level involves receiving the force so as to neutralize it before you are taken off balance and/or struck. This is not an easy level of practice for both parties. It can be very frustrating for a nage, if the nage is not perfectly accepting of this level of practice. It can be dangerous for an uke who mistakenly locks in place, thereby opening one's self to potentially more destructive attacks.
I have always disagreed with this in the fact that it assumes a greater power differential that results in harm or a throw. When in fact the goal in aiki arts is that the greatest force doesn't win-it loses. The aiki ball warding or Fure aiki or the Chinese four oz to move a thousand pounds holds true. There is a safer model of long term health in NOT taking repeated throws and in softening and toughening the body to change forces.
Even with broad ranging (rudimentary to excellent) grappling scenarios of men going at each other full bore in a controlled environment it produce LESS injuries then the cooperative environment of aikido. *Note Stan P's excellent work and comparative statistics. And equally trained people can learn to neutralize and counter in a safe-or even saf(er) manner, I would even speculate that training in aiki could and should produce a body type that allows an extremely safer manner to practice in that most of the waza will never complete to cause harm in the first place. That would culminate in a new "group think" causing a foundational shift and help to create more effective, free thinking, and free moving body that can maintain balance, neutralize forces without even starting to ever think about an offence yet. It is safer for the nage...and the uke.

At any rate it seems we agree in that it is very clear that the method used in vast majority of training is taking a fall; as I described, and you outlined in your opening rebuttal. Where can we find this energy "change" you mentioned? Where? What is it comprised of? How does it work in action that fits into a grappling or push hand model I described later. Any video you know of or sources I could see? Even with that if we were to find it, and examine that- I think the percentages would support my points all the more.
As a topic I am aware of it continually being denied on the net- then we all get to watch tens of thousands of hours of evidence contradicting that denial. Again, I was not addressing Ukemi as an absolute anyway. Just a question and observation of receving and falling and it becoming a "group think" model in that it is practiced by so many.

Cheers
Dan

Marc Abrams
03-31-2009, 01:24 PM
Dan:

I think that we are actually talking about the same thing :D (love fest or what...). I totally agree with what you said about how things should be. I am likely not as articulate as I would like to be. My point was not one of the greater force wins. My point is that unless people are aware of working towards those goals, a lot of people take the receiving as "a difficult uke"............:crazy: There are certainly enough uke's that do act to thwart someone else out of ego. These people typically move in a way that they would never do under realistic conditions. These people typically create openings in which a good fighter would simply "fill in the blanks..." Training properly should be safer. Having been in fighting sports & marital arts previous to my entry into Aikido, I can fully attest to my experience being that I have observed far more injuries in Aikido (including the ones I received due to my own stupidity and/or the sadistic actions of others).

I agree with your analysis of percentages. I think that this has a lot to due with the great growth in an art that came from a tradition of transmission to only small groups of people at a time for a substantial period of time. Then again, life is a bell-shaped curve. I prefer to aim for the top percent! I can say that the way I train and teach is one in which I try and live up to my words. I employ this model with strikers and with grapplers. To me, if it is a principle-based movement system then it needs to be tested so as to see if it really works under any situation. I learn from my failures so as to learn how to better understand and utilize those principles.

Marc Abrams