Monday, June 11, 2018

Be dragonflies, not flatfish

When you read a line "The pendulum has swung too far in the direction of conformity," and with the author imploring you to rebel, chances are that you will be tempted to conclude that it is some uber-left intellectual who has gone off the rails, again.

The essay titled "Let your workers rebel" is in the Harvard Business Review.

I will give you a minute for that to sink in ;)

Now, my experience with the private sector was for a grand total of nine months, and that too in the old country.  And, it was in an era when India was still relatively a closed economy and with the Berlin Wall seemingly impenetrable.

But, one of the many reasons why I knew I would never fit into the private sector was this: I knew I could not conform.  Heck, I have that problem even in my chosen profession!

So, when the author--Francesca Gino--who teaches at Harvard Business School, writes and talks about the importance of non-conformity, I feel like I don't have to read the essay in order to agree with her.  But, read I did.
Few leaders actively encourage deviant behavior in their employees; most go to great lengths to get rid of it. Yet nonconformity promotes innovation, improves performance, and can enhance a person’s standing more than conformity can.
It is like with students and children too.  The downside is that the more successful we get at promoting constructive nonconformity, the less we enjoy the relationship when they begin to question and rebel ;)
My research also shows that going against the crowd gives us confidence in our actions, which makes us feel unique and engaged and translates to higher performance and greater creativity.
Seriously, they need to do research to find this out?

Of the different real world examples that Gino provides in her essay, the one that I liked the best was this:
Look for disconfirming evidence. Leaders shouldn’t ask, “Who agrees with this course of action?” or “What information supports this view?” Instead they should ask, “What information suggests this might not be the right path to take?” Mellody Hobson, the president of Ariel Investments and the chair of the board of directors of DreamWorks Animation, regularly opens team meetings by reminding attendees that they don’t need to be right; they need to bring up information that can help the team make the right decisions, which happens when members voice their concerns and disagree. At the Chicago Board of Trade, in-house investigators scrutinize trades that may violate exchange rules. To avoid bias in collecting information, they have been trained to ask open-ended interview questions, not ones that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Leaders can use a similar approach when discussing decisions. They should also take care not to depend on opinions but to assess whether the data supports or undermines the prevailing point of view.
I am mighty glad that the private sector is realizing the importance of non-conformity.  The old country is about all conformity.  I assume this HBR essay won't go far there!

Why "Be dragonflies, not flatfish" in the title?  Read the damn essay; I can't do all the work for you! ;)


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