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Ten Reasons Why Conformity Is Evil

Ten reasons to avoid conformity

Any community that requires conformity as a rule for inclusion is inherently flawed and will fail in the face of a community that is both inclusive and diverse, writes Alex McNabb.

April 8, 2013 10:04 by

6) Conformity breeds intolerance

If we all need to conform and conformity is our principal attribute, we can quickly see that anyone who does not conform to the ideas or practices we conform to is not acceptable to our community. They are not welcome. We do not want them – or the ideas, challenges or new practices they bring. It’s counter-genetic, this idea that we cannot explore or adopt the new because we are bound by conformity. It creates communities doomed to eventual failure.

7) Conformity smothers creativity
It’s the process of exploring the new, of tweaking the nose of the everyday and flicking the nipples of the mundane that gives us that marvellous force, creativity. Dreaming up new insights, finding expression that challenges, excites and engages us in new ways is so fundamental to progress and, I would argue, the reason for living at all. If we can’t create, if we can’t celebrate our very ability to think up new and wonderful things, then we don’t have a reason to be. And yet conformity tells us that we mustn’t challenge or invent, but instead tread the well-trodden path. It protects itself by punishing challengers and inventors.

8) Conformity abhors change
Communities that have been lashed to conformity are inherently unable to change, because change naturally challenges conformity. So how do we improve? We don’t, there’s no need to improve. We’re conforming because it’s better this way, the way we’ve always done it. You wouldn’t understand, it’s not conformity so much as tradition and our culture is inherently celebrated by tradition. We have a culture of respect and your non-conformist ideas are, frankly, disrespectful. And so on. The mantras are quite seductive, aren’t they? But conformity hides behind mantras like this, smothering change and blocking new and better ways of doing things because we’re stuck with the old ways. There’s nothing wrong, incidentally, with celebrating tradition. But that’s different to using tradition as cladding for conformity.

9) Conformity breeds mediocrity
And so we have a call to be mediocre. Don’t question the way we do things, keep your head down and knuckle under like the rest. Don’t shine, don’t be brilliant. Don’t show anyone up or go around knocking down walls or exploring better, more efficient ways of doing things. Don’t be outspoken or go to the line because you believe passionately in something. In fact, we’d be grateful if you wouldn’t be passionate about anything. Passion can be so, well, challenging.

10) Conformity stifles innovation and breeds weakness
And so we see conformity is the natural enemy of all innovation. Some of the most innovative companies in the world also manage to be highly conformist, though. So where does that fit into McNabb’s Theory of Conformity? Because conformity is often selective. You can play in the playground, but you can’t play in the classroom. Innovation can happen in the areas where innovation is permitted, but not in the firewalled areas where we demand conformity. It’s an insidious thing. But the weakest part of organisations, the blind spots, is frequently where conformity rules. You might invent the world’s greatest transistors, but if you’re totally closed to a new approach to, say, your communications strategy, you’ve created a weakness through conformity.

There. Glad I got that off my chest…

Originally published by Alexander McNabb here.

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