I.4.7 Negative Entanglement

While entanglement is an overwhelmingly positive phenomenon, entanglement also has a dark side. The generals and soldiers supporting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un suppressing their own population are as negatively entangled as are the members of the Ku Klux Klan, a Sicilian Mafia clan or the affiliates of a Mexican drug cartel. Negative entanglement can also be found in the business world. A stark example of negative entanglement was Lehman Bros and how their CEO Richard Fuld infamously created a culture of fear, financial constraints and normalization of mistreatment on the part of employees. He built an organization that was negatively entangled. The regulators and society asked why nobody did “speak-up”? We now know it’s not that easy in negatively entangled organizations. It’s the same as bystanders asking “why doesn’t she just leave him” when talking about abused women. When used negatively, entanglement will stifle speaking-up and diversity of thought which is another key indicator of effective teams. Misalignment in honest signals can be used to pinpoint and identify negative entanglement.

Nazi Germany is a prime example of negative entanglement.  In a social network study, criteria for rapid adaptation of Nazism were identified. The researchers found that the more social cohesion there was in a town in the Weimar republic before the rise of Nazi Germany, measured as membership in sports clubs, pigeon breeders’ associations, and choirs, the higher the subsequent percentage of Nazi party members. “Interacting as equals while singing or discussing rabbit breeding did not fortify Germans against the lure of an extremist party.” Rather, the more entangled the population of a town was as rabbit breeders and choir singers, the more it lubricated the spread of ideas of a murderous regime. Ultranationalists such as the Nazis make a strong distinction between “us”, and “them”. While ultranationalists are giving and expecting loyalty from the members of their own in-group or tribe, they are denying humanity to their out-group. The Nazis were putting members of other tribes such as the Jews, the gypsies, or the homosexuals, into extermination camps, to create a fully negatively entangled society by annihilating everybody who was “different”.


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