I recently enjoyed a great interview with Jonathan Freedman, Portfolio Manager at Platinum Management in New York City. Jonathan shared his insights on the mental model of groupthink. Drawing from 25 years of professional investment experience, Jonathan recommended a book that has largely been lost to history: Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes by Irving L. Janis.
Jonathan pointed out that groupthink applies to investing as well as facets of life and society. Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds is a well known investigation into the subject of groupthink, with an investing orientation. More obscure but no less powerful, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements explores the issue of groupthink at a social level.
I asked Jonathan to explain how and why his study of groupthink has extended beyond traditional behavioral finance. His answer was profound: In a chance encounter last year at a barbershop, Joseph R. Perella shared with Jonathan news of the recently released movie My Italian Secret which highlighted the story of Gino Bartali and other Italian heroes of the Holocaust. As Jonathan discovered further details of Gino Bartali’s life and example, he connected it to the subjects of groupthink and contrarianism — in the broader context.
Jonathan founded TeamGinoBartali.com as a tribute and honor to Gino Bartali’s memory. On August 5-6, 2015, Team Gino Bartali participated in a 2 day, 180 mile bike ride called Bike4Chai that raised money for the children of Chai Lifeline, supporting kids with cancer and other serious illnesses. Sponsors for an upcoming August 3-4, 2016 Bike4Chai charity ride are welcome!
As reported on Bicyling.com, Jonathan just returned from a 116-mile bicycle ride in Italy with the Israel pro cycling team Cycling Academy that traced the route Bartali took from his house in Florence to the convents of Assisi during the Second World War.
About Gino Bartali
Gino Bartali, born in Florence in 1914, was a champion road cyclist who won the Italian Giro d’Italia multi-stage race three times (in 1936, 1937 and 1946) and the Tour de France twice (in 1938 and 1948). Due to his remarkable sportive accomplishments, he became a most popular and widely admired national hero. Bartali was a devout Catholic. According to his son, Andrea Bartali, Archbishop Elia Angelo Dalla Costa had married his parents and maintained a close relationship to their father. Consequently, following the German occupation of Italy in September 1943, Bartali, who was a courier for the resistance, came to play an important role in the rescue of Jews within the framework of the network initiated by Dalla Costa and Rabbi Nathan Cassuto. Bartali, who was known to cover large distances with his bicycle for training purposes, transferred forged documents that were hidden in the handlebar and seat of his bicycle from one place to another. His activity spanned over a wide area. He also distributed forged documents that were produced by the Assisi network, another rescue operation initiated by Church people in that town. When Bartali was stopped and searched, he specifically asked that his bicycle not be touched since the different parts were very carefully calibrated to achieve maximum speed.
After the war Bartali never spoke of his underground work during the German occupation. Hence many of his courageous endeavors remain unknown. Sara Corcos, who worked for the CDEC (Centro di Documentazione Ebraica Contemporanea) in Milan, told her niece, Shoshan Evron, the daughter of Rabbi Nathan Cassuto, that she had met Gino Bartali after the war. He emphatically refused to be interviewed, and said that he had been motivated by his conscience and therefore did not want to have his activity documented. Only when Corcos told him that she was related to the family of Rabbi Cassuto, a deeply moved Bartali agreed to speak, on condition that she would not record him.