Does it make sense to just follow the crowd?

Well, sometimes it could end up leading you to make bad decisions, just because everyone else thinks it is a good idea.

The bandwagon effect is a cognitive bias where people adopt certain behaviors, styles, or attitudes simply because others are doing so.

It is due to humans being a social species where it makes sense to be part of the group, and therefore not wanting to risk that belonging by doing something the rest of the group is not doing.

One of the most famous examples is the Asch Conformity experiment, where a large proportion of people in a group would deliberately give the wrong answer to a question, just because the other members of the group all also gave the wrong answer first.

It is also an efficient heuristic from an evolutionary perspective. If everyone in your group is adopting a behavior or belief, it means that behavior or belief is:

  1. Safe: Unlikely to be so dangerous that also believing it will put you at risk
  2. Useful: Working well enough to bring a benefit to the group, otherwise they would not believe it in the first place

As a result, instead of using the valuable time and energy to process and analyse whether every idea or behavior is good or not, our brain often just trusts the wisdom of our in-group and follows what everyone else is doing.

While this bias is known to have a large impact on things like politics, sports and fashion, it can also have a big impact on innovation and creative teams.

Internally within a company, it is common for employees to support ideas and projects which are already popular, especially those supported by leaders with more authority. This can lead to a fear of doing things which rock the boat, and as a result many companies are full of projects designed to please the lowest common denominator and actually please nobody.

Outside of a company, innovation teams are also too often “inspired” by what everyone else in the startup space is doing and wanting to do their version of it. Essentially, they are trying to get on the innovation bandwagon, whether or not that wagon is going in the strategic direction which makes sense for their company.

After all, how many companies want to develop their version of “An Uber for dogs“, “An Airbnb for confidential documents” or “A Web3 blockchain-based AR video-productivity AI”?

Finally, just because other people like something, it does not mean that you or your team need to like it as well.

Creativity involves you creating something which your own individual viewpoints and feelings in it.

Instead of trying to just produce something because it appears to be popular at the time, often it is more rewarding to make something unique and more aligned with what you really believe.

So while it might take more energy, it is always worth asking yourself before you and your team begin on a new idea or project: Is this something which we just see everyone else doing and believing, or is this something we truly believe in?

Did you know that scientific evidence shows your creativity decreases over time

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Creativity & Innovation expert: I help individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capabilities, so you can develop the next breakthrough idea which customers love. Chief Editor of and Founder / CEO of Improvides Innovation Consulting. Coach / Speaker / Author / TEDx Speaker / Voted as one of the most influential innovation bloggers.