Wednesday, 14 October 2015

The Power of Groupthink

Entrepreneur Strategist and Founder of website Yura Bryant gives an insight into a sociological phenomenon that often escapes our minds.

Groupthink... What is groupthink? Groupthink is defined as the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility. You could say groupthink is the key process which influences behaviour in mainstream society. It seems quite irrational to say when people are individuals, individuals who have the free will to produce their own thoughts. In actuality though, how free are we to form our own thoughts, when we are moulded from birth to listen to those who hold an authoritarian position over our development?

Think about that completely for a moment. Your development over time occurred under the process of being domesticated by the thoughts and beliefs of others. The world around you became to reflect the perception of those who held influence over you. From family, to school, to friends; your lenses to view the world were tainted by other viewpoints that formed "your" opinion. As this continues over time, you seek to have your opinion of the world validated by others because you need the acknowledgement of group approval.

Take, for instance, the power of social media. Social media platforms are widely used today as a means of communication and for gathering information. One of the most powerful aspects of social media is how a piece of information can be shared with millions of people in a matter of a few hours. But let's backtrack. What is the popular subject in mainstream society, it gets this special treatment, it is put on this pedestal of being ‘trending’ or being the ‘latest news’. What is not so popular gets the silent treatment. A study by Pew Research Centre found that, people refuse to talk about a controversial topic, unless a majority of the their peers agree with their views. That means people are unwilling to engage in open opinion, for fear that they will be persecuted for their thoughts.

If we were to analyse it for what it really is; groupthink is the movement to suppress original thought which can harm the status quo in place. There is a need to stifle opposing thoughts because allowing them to flow freely can lead to dissent and chaos. Going off that conclusion; is it safe to say that the very fragile fabric that holds the United States together is dependent on the power of groupthink? That answer seems to already be illustrated for you by examining everyday society. If a nation was truly operated under freewill; hundreds of small fractions in society would be at constant war with one another to control and rule supremely. But wait... Does this not already occur within the world we live within?

Yes, it does. That is why the power of groupthink resides in the ability to gain control of the majority so that the minority can be labeled as unruly and troubled. Now is this causing you to question your perception of your reality? Your society around you controls your views and opinions, but when given the ability to think and process without distractions, new realisations slowly take form. This presents major problems if this behaviour becomes widespread. Thus you are consistently bombarded with distractions which blocks your ability to think freely without bias.

The majority of society is controlled by some form of groupthink. We all circle around specific ideas, evolving movements and issues that resonate with our manufactured beliefs. But do the majority of people know how to subdue groupthink perception in favour of rational analysis? Groupthink is a danger in modern society, because it develops people who lack the ability to apply common sense in their daily interactions. Groupthink is a double edged sword. It has the ability to suppress opposing forces but it also has the ability to lead its sheep to the slaughter. Be careful of what you allow yourself to believe as truth because it becomes a dictating force in your life.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Applying For Economics At University

Applying for economics at university? From someone who has just finished the process of university applications, here are the 5 things you need to do to give you an edge when applying for economics.

It's most essential to know exactly what it is that you are applying for. Economics at university is quite a different beast to most A-Level Econ courses, and this is something many applicants fail to recognise. Maths is incredibly important, that's why it's a compulsory A-Level for most Econ courses, but you have to make sure you're comfortable with doing a lot of it: many people (including myself) underestimate the dominance of maths-based work in an Economics degree.

Make sure you read up the syllabi (yes, that really is the plural of syllabus) of whichever universities you are applying for. Look at the units offered, and make sure that there are sufficiently interesting units at whichever universities you want to apply to. Not only does lacking interest in the course reduce your chances of getting admissions to give you a place, but even if you do get in, you don't want to suffer 3 years studying topics you lack interest in.

2. READ.
You probably know the importance of reading outside of the literature prescribed by your school/college, to note in your Personal Statement and discuss in any interviews. But remember, as admissions officers work through piles of cookie-cutter Personal Statements, you want to leave a lasting impression on them.

Saying you've read Freakonomics will not do this.

For sure, it's an excellent book that I would recommend to anyone, but the fact is that it's so popular that it shows off little about your interest in economics.

So find your own, lesser-known books to discuss. These don't have to as formal as academic papers, but there are plenty of economists who write superb literature. If you have a particular interest in a certain area of economics, browse around on Amazon to see what's out there. Putting a more obscure book (that is still from a credible source) will be likely to impress an admissions officer more, as it will highlight you using more of your own intuition.

It's very easy to just regurgitate the outline of any books you've read in your PS, but, again, this would not be a particularly spectacular display of your passion for economics.

You need to ensure that your repetitions of the author's messages are brief, and your own, original analysis and commentary is longer. In this process, universities care more about what you, as a potential student, think than any author.

A way in which you can ensure you are analysing as well as stating is by using a method often ignored when it comes to the PS by many people: the PEE method. That is:




There's a reason why the last 'E' appears the biggest- because that's how much attention you must give it compared to the others.

Applying early is a great idea for everyone- not just if you're applying to Oxford or Cambridge. Remember, the sooner your application has been sent off, the sooner your time will be freed up to pursue things like a social life, or sports- or, most importantly, the exams that are coming up in the summer!

Also, applying early can give you advantages in the application process. Some (not all) universities deal with applications as they arrive. This gives a slight advantage to candidates who apply earlier, as there are fewer applications to process in October, for example, as opposed to January, when the official deadline for everyone is. This can mean more attention is paid to your application, and also that there may be more available spaces and thus more chance of success for you earlier on in the process.

However, this doesn't mean you should rush your application- do make sure that it is of the highest quality you can make it before finally sending it off.

(Bonus Tip)
Applying to university is a stressful process for most people. But remember, it's one of the most important decisions of your life, one that (hopefully) will allow you to pursue exactly the kind of studies that you want to, rather than being prescribed subjects you may have lacked any interest in. University will also be a gateway to new friends, new surroundings, and new experiences that will influence greatly the person you will become.

So, my final piece of advice would be to work hard to achieve your future goals. Recognise how important and exciting the next future is for you, and ENJOY CREATING IT.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

What's Happening To Poponomics? FAQ

Hello there. My name is Mohammad Lone. This is what's happening to poponomics.

So here I am, bashing away at my keyboard, alone, in a dimly lit room packed with empty boxes, books and a variety of knick-knacks. It's 11:11pm. I've just had a criminally powerful coffee, and am now nibbling on some grapes my mum bought for me earlier from Sainsburys as I pause to think about what to type next. I am feeling both excited for the time that lies ahead for me, and also a little mournful of my childhood life living under the roof of my family.

Welcome to university. Welcome to the promised land of education. Welcome to £27,000 of debt.

My confusion of emotions may be reflected in this piece of writing, and for that I do apologise- but here is, as briefly put as I can, an update on what exactly is going on with poponomics, among other things, in the form of answers to questions I have received from time to time. Hopefully this can clear a few things up.

What does poponomics mean?
Poponomics is a mashup of two words that I hope encompass some of the values of this website- 'popular' and 'economics'. Popular not necessarily in the sense that loads of people do read it, rather in the sense that loads of people can read it and understand it. Accessibility is one of the key things I focus on when I write- that readers are not overwhelmed with complex jargon and statistics.

'Economics', is pretty self-explanatory- the majority of the content on this site is on the topic of economics.

You haven't uploaded a video in ages. Are you still alive?
Yes, I am still alive. Thank you for your concern.

The video situation has been complex, as I've been facing difficulty finding a new camera that suits me (until now I have solely relied upon my laptop camera), and also with committing the large amount of time required to plan, film and edit a new video I am satisfied with.

But, the video production will continue soon. I have acquired a new, better quality camera and you can expect poponomics to return to YouTube on the 16th of October.

Do you write everything for the website yourself?
Not everything- I have been fortunate enough to have worked with some outstanding guest contributors, such as entrepreneurial guru Yura Bryant and InTouch CRM executive Didi Zheleva, who have lent their expertise on their specialist areas to poponomics.

However, the majority of the content is indeed written by myself- but I would like to gradually reduce my contributions to allow a greater spectrum of writers for the site.

Can I contribute an article for the website?
You want to contribute? Excellent! It doesn't matter whether you're a PhD in Economics or have never studied it in your life- as long as you can write, send an email over to us at and I'd be happy to take any request further and feature you on poponomics!

What credentials do you have to write about economics?
To be totally honest, not many. Yet. I haven't sat in a single economics class in my life (though now as a university econ student, hopefully that will change soon), and most of my thoughts have been derived from reading the news and books. 

Could you recommend any good introductory economics books for a non-economist? One that isn't Freakonomics?
Sure. 'Free Lunch' by David Smith is a great starter text, as it gives easily understandable yet in-depth introductions to various economic theories and concepts.

'The New Capitalist Manifesto' by Umair Haque is an incredibly thought-provoking yet accessible commentary on today's economic climate, particularly with regards to the failures and successes of today's businesses. And whatever economics book you're reading, the 'Penguin Dictionary of Economics' is always helpful to have at hand in case you come across any new words.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for future poponomics articles and videos, don't hesitate to send them to

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Pros & Cons #3: Going To University

As thousands of teens throughout the UK and the world over begin to prepare their applications for university, today we take a look at whether a university education is worth the often hefty outlay. 

PRO - Academic Stimulation

The primary reason for (most) people to go to university is, of course, to learn. Universities create a structured, systematic environment for students to learn in. 

Universities provide key academic tools to students, tools ranging from buildings and advanced learning facilities, to access to tuition from academic experts in any field, to things that often overlooked, such as a syllabus, a structure to a student's learning experience. 

These are the results of years of planning and a large amount of investment, that anyone who goes to university can take advantage of.

CON - Information is Everywhere

The ever-widening access to information that we are all receiving (primarily via the internet), however, could be argued to be reducing the academic importance of traditional universities.

Yes, going to a university gives you access to tuition from academics who have a great deal of knowledge in their field, but, today, so can Just search 'lecture' on here and you can find thousands of videos of esteemed academics teaching pretty much any topic you want to know about. 

What's more is that the breadth of content on YouTube (and other video streaming sites) means you can find talks from not just experts in a particular field, but experts who are world-renowned, from some of the best academic institutions in the world. MIT, for example, have over 3,000 lecture videos on their YouTube channel- for most people, giving higher quality content than they would receive at their own university.

PRO - Job Prospects

But, even if you listened to all 3,426 MIT Lectures on YouTube, it's pretty difficult to convey that on the key to a good job that is your CV. 

Of course, there are a number of prominent specialised jobs that are inaccessible without a university degree; you can't be a doctor, or for example, without having studied medicine at university.

But as the jobs market is becoming ever more competitive, it appears the demand for a university degree is growing. In 2013, the number of jobs in the UK requiring a degree overtook the number of jobs requiring no qualifications at all.

Virgin founder Richard Branson is often cited as an
example of why university is not important.
Some people cite success stories such as those of Richard Branson or Alan Sugar in opposition to the notion that a university degree is a requirement for a successful career- and indeed that is sometimes the case. 

However, we must not fool ourselves into thinking the likes of Branson and Sugar are not the exceptions, but the rule. The large majority of us won't see their success, and in that case a university degree is a pretty good thing to have to fall back on.

In his paper The Effects of Education as an Institution (1977), Stanford University Sociologist John W. Meyer affirms that our society's values put a graduate in a special position: "The education he receives has a very special status and authority: its levels and content categories have the power to redefine him legitimately in the eyes of everyone around him and thus take on overwhelming ceremonial significance".

CON - Cost

Were we having this debate pre-2000, this wouldn't be such an issue, as university tuition in the UK was free. But now, with universities charging as much as £9,000 a year in tuition fees, many students are having to weigh up whether university is worth the outlay of £27,000 for a regular 3-year course- plus, of course, the costs of living (accommodation, food, etc.).

Again, the condition of Britain's jobs market means graduates are not guaranteed to be better off in terms of jobs, either. As more and more people attend university, being a graduate alone is now not enough to succeed in attaining many jobs. 

The apprenticeship is becoming a popular alternative
to university among many young people.
Plus, the growing number of apprenticeships, school leaver programmes being offered by some top companies means there is an alternative route to a high paid job- one that not only means you avoid tuition fees, but actually pays a decent salary.

CON - No Guarantees

It is a myth that going to university for however many years automatically turns a student into an academic. The University is a facilitator for learning- it allows students to learn if they make the effort to do so. 

It's not just a question of effort, however. University is not a one-size fits all process- some people thrive, and others don't. Whether you thrive or not is not a problem- it's just making the right decision with regards to allocating your talents. Because performing under-par in university can make things tough.

Earning anything less than 2.1 in University can put graduates in a difficult position these days, especially considering it's the minimum requirement for over 75% of graduate employers. Of course, it is not impossible to get a job with a 2.2- it's just a lot harder. 

University is an investment, remember- it is not guaranteed to pay you back in returns.

PRO - Social Experience

A major appeal of university is the social aspect. 

Most people go to school in their hometown, but university often means a move to some place relatively far away. This makes universities melting pots of students from all over the world, enabling cultural exchanges that can have very positive effects on an individual's personal development.

University also provides one of the biggest networking opportunities for most students- because despite whatever cultural differences there may be, everyone attends in pursuit of academic interests. You can meet many more people who are interested in similar things to you, which not only helps you to thrive academically but also helps you to become part of a new, wider community. 

The community aspect of university education, whether it's joining societies, doing sports or just living with other people, is a very valuable thing. For most people, it can create friends- or even spouses- for life.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

What Is Corbynomics?

With the results of the UK Labour Party Leadership Elections set to be announced this Saturday, it's time to take a look at the economic policies of one of the candidates considered the frontrunner, and also the furthest to the left, by many- Jeremy Corbyn.

The Islington MP's economic proposals have made such an impact that they have come under the new title of 'Corbynomics'. Though, admittedly, adding 'nomics' to the names of his rivals would lack the front page appeal of this title (especially 'Burnhamnomics', or would it be 'Burnhamomics'?), it is undoubtedly the unique nature of Corbyn's policies in the leadership race that has brought them a name to come under.

So, what are Corbyn's policies, and are they credible? Here are 4 of his policies that are making the headlines.

An End to Austerity

"You just cannot cut your way to prosperity so Britain needs a publicly-led expansion and reconstruction of the economy, with a big rise in investment levels."
Corbyn is a strong opponent to David Cameron and
George Osborne's policy of austerity.

One of the most appealing policies to his supporters on the left, Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to bring an end to the money-saving spending cuts that have been enforced in recent years by the Conservatives.

This means that a government under Corbyn would end spending cuts on public services such as the NHS, the education system and transport- in fact, he would be likely to increase spending on these as demand increases due to a growing and ageing population.

Corbyn would also reverse one of the most controversial austerity tactics, that is the privatisation of public services. He has pledged to renationalise the railway system, and also prevent the further privatisation of the National Health Service.

Reducing Foreign Military Presence

Jeremy Corbyn believes Britain should learn lessons from
an intervention in Iraq seen by many to have failed.

"Thousands more deaths in Iraq ... will set off a spiral of conflict, of hate, of misery, of desperation that will fuel the wars, the conflict, the terrorism, the depression and the misery of future generations." (2003)

However, the only cut that Corbyn proposes is with regards to the military. He is a fervent anti-war activist, something highlighted by his strong criticism of past actions such as Tony Blair's move to invade Iraq, and current proposals like those to militarily become involved in Syria. So, a Britain under Jeremy Corbyn would reduce its military presence in areas like the Middle East, thus saving a considerable amount of money.

Furthermore, as a believer in non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, Corbyn would close down Britain's nuclear weaponry facility Trident, located in Scotland. This would not only save money, but also be a welcome move, considering a significant proportion of Scots are against the facilities themselves. However, some worry that such military contraction would endanger Britain, in what many see as an increasingly threatening world.

'Quantitative Easing for the People'

"QE for people instead of banks"
Banks would no longer benefit from government QE
programmes under Corbyn.

Quantitative Easing is nothing new in government policy, but the manner in which Jeremy Corbyn seeks to implement the divisive policy highlights the new direction in which he seeks to take Britain.

Put simply, in the current system of QE, the Bank of England creates new money that is inserted into the accounts of national banks, with the aim of encouraging these banks to lend more openly and thus stimulate spending in the economy.

Corbyn wishes for the Bank of England to continue creating new money, but proposes that the finances created should not go to the private banks, but a state-owned 'National Investment Bank', that will "head a multi-billion pound programme of infrastructure upgrades and support for high-tech and innovative industries".

National Education Service

Tuition fees have been a source of discontent for many
of Britain's young people. Under Corbyn they would not exist.
"To become a high skill, high pay, high productivity nation we need to invest in education throughout peoples' working lives - that is the path to prosperity for all.

A significant part of Corbyn's anti-austerity programme would be the increasing of government spending on education. There has been much uproar in the past decade over university tuition fees, first introduced by Labour's own Tony Blair, and increased to as much as £9,000 a year under David Cameron.

Not only would Jeremy Corbyn abolish these tuition fees, but he has also proposed the reintroduction of university grants, which have just been replaced by loans.

Free university forms a major part of Corbyn's 'National Education Service' proposal. This system would see the government increase spending on education (funded by tax increases, government military spending cuts and the economic productivity boost the Corbyn camp believe their policies will bring), in order to make education accessible to all, providing universally free childcare right up to free university.