“The conformist person adapts to the world. The rebeld is a person that adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on rebeld persons ”
George Bernard Shaw
The ability of companies to anticipate change and adapt to change is a prime condition for surviving in a world as uncertain and accelerated change as today. There are companies that perceive the changes and are able to adapt, and there are others that do not perceive them, or they think that everything can be arranged by applying the same practices of the past with small adjustments. The former can transform and convert the new challenges into opportunities to grow and progress, the latter simply become irrelevant.
Ultimately innovation is a matter of people, there are people who quickly accept new ideas and new challenges, and are able to abandon their previous way of thinking and adapt to the new situation, while others cling tenaciously to the prevailing dogma in the organization. Hence the importance of asking ourselves, in times of accelerated changes and a future that is anything but the extrapolation of the past, if we have enough rebels in our organization.
The rebels are people of ideas, creative thinkers, driven to change things, and seek new possibilities. They go several steps ahead of most of their colleagues at work. You will find most of them among the high potentials of an organization. They are risky, demanding and creative individuals, born to rebel.
The rebels bring courage to the organization with their way of doing. They need to be helped to get to know the organization, how to gain respect from others for their ideas, and how to align with corporate values and priorities so that they do not burn in the day to day and to make their creativity is productive. Initially they require more attention than conformist people but in my experience, the return on investment is definitely worth it.
The cost of compliance
Conformity at work takes many forms: modeling the behavior of others in similar roles, expressing appropriate emotions, dressing appropriate attire, routinely agreeing with bosses’ opinions, accepting team decisions without measuring consequences, and so on.
Of course, not all conformism is bad. But the reality is that organizations pay a high price for compliance, in terms of commitment, initiative and creativity of people. The question is tha to succeed and evolve, organizations need to strike a balance between adhering to the formal and informal rules that provide the necessary structure, and the freedom people need to connect with their passions and find meaning and purpose in what they do.
That is not surprising, since for decades the principles of management have prevailed on the basis of order and command. Leaders have focused too much on designing efficient processes and getting employees to follow the rules and minimize the risks of dissent. The point is that if as leaders we continue to attract, select and retain similar people, we sacrifice diversity in thoughts and values. Over time, we end up generating a cohesive and strong culture, which can be an advantage in predictable environments, but which may be unable to adapt and thrive in changing and dynamic environments like the current one.
In times of accelerated changes, compliance adversely affects the business, as it hampers innovation, the adoption of new ways of working and the development of competencies essential for an uncertain future. It is easy for people to get bored and fall into their “comfort zone,” when their work involves little variety or challenge. Most worryingly, prevalence of compliance leads us to prioritize the information that supports our current beliefs and ignore the information that challenges them, so we overlook those things that could stimulate positive change and limit our ability to Innovate or contribute to a higher level.
When everyone thinks similarly and adheres to the dominant norms, companies are doomed to stagnate. To combat this inertia and drive innovation and change effectively, leaders need an original, sustained thinking in their organizations. Hence the importance of a certain number of rebels in the organization, their critical opinions, even when they are wrong, are useful, disrupt the conformist consensus, shake original thinking and help organizations find new solutions to problems.
“Great leaders do not just introduce original ideas into the world. They create cultures that promote originality in others.” – Adam Grant
A commitment to promote dissent is the vital element that separates a strong culture from a dangerous cult. In his new book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Adan Grant explores how to recognize a good idea, speak without silencing, build a coalition of allies, choose the right moment to act, and handle fear and doubt. And how leaders can build cultures that welcome dissent.
When leaders and teams lack a solid decision-making process, collective thinking – a common bias that afflicts teams where team members tend to conform to a prevailing opinion – leads teams to stay in their “confort zone” dominated by one or two strong opinion leaders, leaving the organization with no capacity for innovation and strategic thinking.
Contrary to what you might think, in his excellent book, Adam Grant, one of the youngest and best-valued professors at The Wharton School, questions the assumption that non-conformist innovators are all bold, young risk takers, producing a fantastic idea one after another. In fact, as shown by countless examples, they are often cautious, action oriented, and concerned about results.
If an organization sincerely wants to create a persistent culture of innovation, a good strategy is to maintain an adequate level of corporate rebels, and provide each one with the tools and methods to present their constructive ideas with freedom, and without fear of what may occur to them.
Not everyone in an organization needs to be a rebel, nor do they want to get involved in change efforts, but in every organization they need rebels who have the courage, ideas and determination to do things better. The goal is to make sure you have at least 5 – 10% rebels in your organization. To do this, you need to emphasize values about norms and create the context so that your nonconformity is productive. For that to happen, you need to make sure to question the status quo, help them understand the organizational landscape, accept that sometimes it is better to ask for forgiveness than to ask permission, to encourage provocative questions, to create spaces for your perspectives to emerge and to challenge programs, and processes Which no longer make sense in a world of accelerated change.
I would like to know your opinion Do you consider the key rebels for your organization? Do you think the management effort is worth it?