This week is feeling pretty deep. I’m off the heels of the Defense Entrepreneur Forum (DEF) annual conference where I was submerged in food and thought. I’ve also been thinking a lot about organizational culture. While I was considering which cognitive bias, I would like to tackle this week, the Bandwagon Effect practically jumped off the page at me.
The Bandwagon Effect is characterized by people being more likely to adopt beliefs when they are adopted by others. The origins of the Bandwagon Effect seem to be focused on elections starting in the 80’s. Those origins suggest that people may alter their voting decisions based on the decisions of others, for example, as voting happens in real time in different time zones etc. The Bandwagon Effect is leveraged highly in marketing campaigns related to politics and everyday consumer behaviors. The premise is the more people think that not eating Gluten is bad, the more people will join in that thought.
I think this might be attributable to several theories of conformity in our lives, but I think there is also an element of self-doubt and lack of resilience that goes into this. For example, if everyone is saying Gluten is bad, they must know something I don’t, right? Gluten therefore must be inherently evil because if its wasn’t why would so many people say it is? Its obvious how powerful the Bandwagon Effect can be in marketing, but what about the workplace? This is where things get a little sideways.
What happens with when the Bandwagon Effect starts to impact our work culture. We’ve seen bad ideas gain traction because they are subscribed to by senior leadership. Sometimes it feels like people abandon all common sense when this happens. This is almost impossible to avoid. But what if we started using the Bandwagon Effect for good?
Its easy for workplace culture to become stale, complacent and filled with bad ideas and bad people. As we have all witnessed before, its not the people who drain an organizations culture who leave, it’s the people who have the wherewithal to see that they are on a sinking ship. But what if we applied the Bandwagon Effect to positive messages. I’m a tad jaded by nature, so I almost never look at the positive side of the coin, so in this I see an opportunity!
What if our senior leadership consistently messaged the culture we want? What if there were punishments for those who were incapable of conforming to a culture of inclusion and diversity not just in the racial and gender components, but inclusion and diversity in ideas, in leadership, in technology. What if we all got on the bandwagon to change and be better? What if the Bandwagon Effect spread and allowed us to be our most authentic, creative, and knowledgeable selves? What if we started a bandwagon of focusing on our warfighter? What if we started a bandwagon for being more willing to move away from the way we learned and embraced the way technological advances have improved the ability to provide training and education? What if our senior leadership consistently made our culture a priority? What if we started with getting right inside before we tried to be right for the outside?
THIS is the bandwagon I want to be on. This is the bandwagon we need. So, lets get our favorite Oregon Trail wagons rallied and let’s not die of dysentery this time. I’m starting a bandwagon. Who wants in?