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The new HBR: The Big Idea is a long format piece that *will not* be included in the print version! They are starting to think ‘digital first’.

This big idea is Francesca Gino writing about new research on nonconformity in business:

Francesca Gino, Let Your Workers Rebel

Throughout our careers, we are taught to conform — to the status quo, to the opinions and behaviors of others, and to information that supports our views. The pressure only grows as we climb the organizational ladder. By the time we reach high-level positions, conformity has been so hammered into us that we perpetuate it in our enterprises. In a recent survey I conducted of more than 2,000 employees across a wide range of industries, nearly half the respondents reported working in organizations where they regularly feel the need to conform, and more than half said that people in their organizations do not question the status quo. The results were similar when I surveyed high-level executives and midlevel managers. As this data suggests, organizations consciously or unconsciously urge employees to check a good chunk of their real selves at the door. Workers and their organizations both pay a price: decreased engagement, productivity, and innovation.

She finds that there are three main reasons we conform at work:

  1. We fall prey to social pressure.
  2. We become too comfortable with the status quo.
  3. We interpret information in a self-serving manner.

She suggests we need to promote constructive nonconformity. As she says,

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.

Read her research findings, and her 12 recommendations on countering the perils of conformity. It’s important work.

Originally published at

Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

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