If we go back to the beginning of time, survival was key to existence. A significant contributor to this was safety in numbers and so people watched out for each other thereby creating an additional blanket of security. When we fast forward to today there is still a hugely significant group mentality that can, in truth, perpetuate both good and evil.
We all understand the importance of groups and their potential value which Aristotle describes as “the whole being greater than the sum of its parts”. But a bigger question might be, what makes certain groups join forces and then equally do battle against others? This is playing out at all levels from the playground, to the workplace and to global politics. Seemingly this is what human beings do.
George Halvorson in a recent Harvard Business Review article contended that, “21st century leadership is a matter of endowing groups of individuals with a satisfying sense of us and channeling their collective energy toward noble ends.” The challenge with creating an “us” is that it naturally gives rise to the existence of a “them” which to Halvorson claims “can lead to wonderful or terrible effects”. The question therefore is how does one amplify the positive (US) and minimize the negative (THEM)?
Perhaps the answer lies, if one was to consider a business, in having high level mission, values and goals that creates an over-arching “US”. Then within this there will be multiple groups (US and THEM) that will inevitably pursue a local agenda that might create some divisiveness. However if it is still consistent with the agenda of over-arching “US”, a healthy US and THEM will exist. This is actually a good situation to have as it perpetuates innovation (creativity), understanding (empathy) and accountability (results).
US and THEM certainly has a negative connotation but if it can be very effective if channeled in an appropriate manner. The key is encouraging a healthy local “US” and “THEM” among those who are already part of the more global “US”.