Saturday, August 6, 2016

Here's to the Dissenters and Non-Conformists

I very much enjoyed this HBR podcast episode featuring Adam Grant, author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.

Several important points:
  1. Follow for the Right Reasons. If you are part of an organization, you can't avoid some going along. But if you choose to march, do it because the ideas and the leadership make sense, not because you are afraid to Rock the Boat.
  2. Explode the Myths of the Non-Conformists. Despite what you might believe, those who dissent often procrastinate, hate taking risks, feel doubt and fear, and have a great many bad ideas. Done, done, done, and definitely done. Also, those who "risk it all" are demonstrably less successful than those who may dip a toe in the entrepreneurial water. In other words, it is ok to Keep Your Day Job (at least until your "night" job pays).
  3. Beware of Group-Think and the Ersatz Devil's Advocate. The designated DA doesn't work because that person doesn't play the role forcefully enough and/or the audience knows its a role. Better to "unearth" a real devil's advocate, especially because dissenting opinions are helpful even when wrong since they help test assumptions. I also find particularly compelling the idea of evaluating people on the way they speak up and emphasizing the awareness of your own weaknesses (both as a leader and a follower).
In other words, you do yourself and your organization a severe disservice when you check your critical mind at the door in service of conformity. (Grant wrote Give and Take: Why Helping Others Fuels Our Success, also a must-read book).