Lemmings for Lemmings in Leadership and Risk

Originally posted on May 1, 2016 @ 8:25 AM


The “Dancing Guy” video is a staple inclusion in many leadership training sessions and hailed by many as a great example of how easily ‘leaders’ can create a following .  Dr Rob Long reveals the  truth behind this video and how the dynamic of groupthink and  mindless conformity is not an example of a good leadership model at all! I’ve used and touted this video  many times myself and now I’m just……….embarrassed!

Lemmings for Lemmings in Leadership and Risk

imageThe greatest example of ‘groupthink’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink) I know of, is the delusion of the dancing guy attributed as leadership. This was first projected as leadership at a TED talk in 2010 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V74AxCqOTvg&feature=youtu.be) that currently has 3.5 million views. The clip itself (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GA8z7f7a2Pk) has more than 14 million views. The TED clip and Youtube clip demonstrate just how easy it is with a simple voiceover to seduce people to a false story through framing and priming (https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-framing-and-priming-effect ). Understanding ‘framing’ and ‘priming’ is critical knowledge in the Social Psychology of Risk (https://safetyrisk.net/understanding-the-social-psychology-of-risk-and-safety/ ).

The reality of this video is documented here: (http://christophercatania.com/2010/05/10/sasquatch-festivals-dancing-guy-reveals-his-swarm-starting-secrets/).

Here we learn that the dancing guy (Colin Wynter) is high as a kite on alcohol and magic mushrooms, as he states in his own words:

‘I dunno, it’s just who I am. I learned to let myself be free—yes, drugs and alcohol are a part, and I have no qualms saying that I was drinking liquor and ate some mushrooms … It’s part of festivals for some people, and there is nothing wrong with using hallucinogenic and alcoholic substances if you do so properly. Would I have behaved in the same manner without? It’s pointless to ask a questions like that since I did use them’.

To get a proper perspective of the action, the full video of the dancing guy can be viewed here: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nU7dxkIz1Vs&feature=youtu.be)

Here we see him gyrating about in his ‘hallucinogenic’ state making sexual gestures, fondling strangers and a range of behaviours that model the opposite of leadership.

What we learn from this delusional manipulation of thinking (given at TED and on the video) is that framing, priming, mindless conformity and groupthink are powerful devices in social psychology to influence the beliefs and decisions of others. This is not just about the framing, priming, mindless conformity and groupthink at the Sasquatch Music Festival but also the many who believed that this was behavior about leadership and followership, something to emulate and value.

The video demonstrates the need for wisdom, discernment and critical thinking when it comes to how things are framed, primed and attributed at us. If you want to learn more about discerning I write about it in Book Three: Real Risk, Human Discerning and Risk (http://cart.humandymensions.com/?product_cat=books ). Perhaps someone could explain how someone on a frenzy on alcohol and drugs at a music festival is a model of anything good. We certainly wouldn’t want our kids to copy this.

I recently offered criticism of this video online on Linkedin and was told in by a safety person that I was ’presumptious’, ‘stupid’ and should ‘pay attention in class’. You can see the discourse here: (https://www.linkedin.com/nhome/updates?activity=6130640840722309120&goback=&trk=hb_ntf_COMMENTED_ON_UPDATE_YOU_COMMENTED_ON ) Again, a great demonstration of how we have created Safety as dumb down safety, so that wisdom and discernment are in short supply. Without critical thinking and discerning, safety can fall for any snake oil if it is ‘framed’ right and if the receiver lacks the skills in critical thinking. This is how zero is ‘framed’ and received.

In order to make the point about the power of being seduced (uncritically) by the original voice over, I reconstructed a new voiceover on the same video to demonstrate how the power of groupthink and mindless conformity works.

(https://vimeo.com/164799779). Just imagine of you has seen this video first?

Groupthink, Mindless Conformity from Human Dymensions on Vimeo.

If you want to learn about groupthink look here:



Similarly, to learn about the experiments of Solomon Ashe in 1958 here:


Groupthink and social conformity are essential to the Body of Knowledge in the Social Psychology of Risk (https://safetyrisk.net/social-psychology-of-risk-body-of-knowledge-2/). Understanding the dynamic of social conformity and groupthink demonstrates how easy it was to sway the youth of Germany to follow the Nazis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnHeX4OHIqo

Rather than demonstrating anything good, the dancing guy video demonstrates the very opposite.

Following some drug induced gyration at a music festival is not leadership but mindless conformity, lemmings following lemmings. If the risk and safety world need anything more urgently in the WHS curriculum, it is studies to assist the development of critical thinking.

It is important to understand that groupthink and conformity are attached to cognitive dissonance, fundamental attribution error and confirmation bias. These too are studied in the Social Psychology of Risk.

The other thing the video of the dancing guy demonstrates is the trap of attributing validity to anything that goes ‘viral’ or has millions of hits on Youtube. This is the trap of attributing value to the Dumb Ways to Die Campaign, a video by Melbourne Metro to tackle suicide on the rail network (this is why each little animated character attempts suicide).

Of course, hits on the internet don’t demonstrate anything, especially anything ethical. For example, at the time of the release of Dumb Ways to Die (now with 127 million views) was also released Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus nude on a wrecking ball (850 million views). If ethics is defined by hits on the Internet then we are all in trouble. Blind attribution of value to ‘going viral’ is nonsense and lacks discernment, what really matters is what actually happens on the rail network, not some unethical campaign. Similarly, there are dangerous parodies (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJM7TujaoZg) of the campaign that have more than 20 million hits.

One thing that a study of the Social Psychology of Risk gives is a much better understanding of how social arrangements affect individual and group decision making. There is no difference in dynamic between what made made millions believe the dancing guy was a leader than similar numbers believing the Nazis were worth following. The dynamic of groupthink and mindless conformity is the same.

Much what is discussed in this blog is studied in the Introduction to the Social Psychology of Risk Workshop being held on 10-12 May. (http://cart.humandymensions.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Psychology-in-Risk-Conference.pdf ).

So, what is the real message of the dancing guy video? Well, it’s not about leadership, it’s not about a movement and it’s certainly not about followership. This is why Craig and I wrote book four Following-Leading in Risk, A Humanising Dynamic. http://cart.humandymensions.com/?product=following-leading-in-risk

If anything, the video demonstrates that lemmings follow lemmings.

Source link

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.