Should You Fight the Status Quo? Usually No.

September 24, 2018

Should You Fight the Status Quo? Usually No.


Since groupthink tends to support the status quo and is relatively unfriendly to innovation, isn’t it your duty as an employee of the company to fight it?

Certainly, companies need innovation, even if they’re not very good at it (see my book: Creating the Innovation Culture). You can count on the fingers of one hand CEOs who say, “No, no—new thinking is not welcome here.” So companies need to minimize groupthink to maximize new ideas.

But while it`s good for the company, is it good for you?

 Not necessarily

You’d hope that suggesting a really innovative idea would have your co-workers hailing you as the new Einstein. Well, might happen but equally possibly, they`ll spend the time explaining why it won`t work. But because you’re so enthusiastic, you keep pushing.

If you do it long enough, you might experience an odd phenomenon. The group may see you as generating conflict by your continued persistence insistence. Groups tend not to like and even ostracize those who rock the boat and will often interpret it as a personal failing (“She’s so hard to get along with”) rather than an effort to help the group operate more effectively. Even if they adopt your idea, they may not feel positive about you (“Yeah, she has the occasional good idea but she’s so pushy about it.”).

It’s unfair, I know, but there you are. If the fairly mild ways to challenge the status quo outlined in the previous post don’t work, you need to decide whether it’s worth fighting on.

It’s usually not worth it

Honestly, most of the time, it isn’t. Most of the time, and particularly on topics not close to your heart, it`s better to go along even if you disagree. It`s called flexibility, compromise, and being a team player. And truthfully, it would be hard to get business done if everyone always insisted on her way.

But sometimes it is

But there may be times when what’s at stake is so important to you personally that you decide not to go along with the status quo. Usually because your sense of right, fairness or other strongly-held value is violated. Going along would be tantamount to compromising yourself. At these times, you may want to actively fight groupthink to get your idea heard. I’ll talk more about this in future posts.

Whether or not you do, being able to identify the groupthink undercurrent allows you to choose when to buck it and when to let yourself be carried along. Being aware helps you make the right decision for you. You’ll probably have to pay for swimming upstream but sometimes it`s worth it. But don`t embark assuming there isn`t a price. Trust me, there will be.

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