Focus groups work if done well

Focus groups work if done well

June 27, 2017 3:03 AM


In my last article I wrote about customer service and focus groups and how great they are. Using the information gleaned from them, I have helped turn around several casinos. However, though I had little understanding of why the focus groups worked, there was no denying they were amazing if done right.

Being part of the poker world both as a player and a marketing executive for nearly 50 years, I always felt poker was more of a mental game than about theory or math. I understood that if you dedicated your time to understanding the minds of your opponents, but more importantly, managed your own mind, you could win money at poker and even be a great player.

I did a lot of research before that article on the mind and how you could improve yourself and become a winning poker player,  a great casino manager or even a better person.

I ran into research about group dynamics, and I discovered some very eye-opening concepts about the mind and people’s motivation. I stumbled upon article after article about techniques that could be used both to improve oneself, but in the wrong hands, could be used for harm.

From addiction support groups to self improvement, there is a group to support people in various stages of their lives and help motivate them in positive ways in a supportive group setting.

However, I also discovered there is a dark side to some groups that claim to help others when in reality they may actually do the opposite. It reminds me of my wife’s favorite album, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. 

A line in the song “Time” captures one of the reasons people sometimes fall into a group that may not have their best interest at heart. The lyric ends with the words, “Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.” 

When you give your personal power to someone or something else, you are putting your destiny in the hands of someone whose true motives may not be readily apparent.

The motivation industry has been around for decades. Like anything else in life, it has a light side and dark side. Some go into the self-help field to use their expertise and experience to help people while others use their charisma and false promises to prey on the weak and vulnerable.

Predators use mind control methods to form groups that are destructive and use methods that sometimes border on criminal and cross over into life-destroying tactics.

One such “self-improvement” group I am familiar with does just that. Here is how it works: For a mere $600, you are invited for a weekend of group sessions that will attempt to completely change the way you think.

After days lasting up to 14 hours a day with little food, water or sleep, one inevitably begins to feel a change in consciousness. The group leader calls it a breakthrough, though to some it starts to feel like a breakdown.  

While the leader keeps saying he is trying to get you to a point of transformation (which conveniently is the name of the next $2,000 course), it feels like all he is doing is selling you the next class that will transform you from the person you are to the person they want you to be. 

All this is done while telling you how powerful you are, and in the next second having you confess your weaknesses and fears in front of the group, while these strangers critique you. It is an eerie feeling when you feel someone is telling you up is down and down is up, and the group is reinforcing this.

Such seminars are called Large Group Awareness Training or LGAT’s and have been around since the 60s.  Though the names of these workshops have changed over the years, the methods of such groups are considered unconventional including: meditation, group hypnosis and visualization. Some methods have been so controversial that they lead in some cases to litigation. 

I could write an entire book on what I uncovered on my research, but for now, I am left with the question, “How can you tell the difference between the two types of groups?”

I will show you how in part two.