Conformity in the Face of the Big Bad Wolf of Innovation

Look around to those you work closely with. How much are you alike? How much do you agree or disagree on the course of action you take on a daily basis?

One of the most important drivers of success in company teams is the diversity of thought, opinion and experience of itÕs members.

When the speed and frequency of your project cycles to meet a company deadline are on the line - there is one aspect of diversity, when in the presence of fear and uncertainty that rises to the top...Conformity.
What is Conformity? Conformity involves changing or adapting your thoughts, opinions, or actions to "go along with" or "fit in" to the group around you. In the 1950Õs, a researcher by the name of Solomon Asch conducted a series of psychological experiments (the "Asch Conformity Experiments") that still remain in use today. The basis of the study according to Wikipedia:

"the Asch conformity experiments or the Asch Paradigm refers to a series of studies directed by Solomon Asch studying if and how individuals yield to or defy a majority group and the effect of such influences on beliefs and opinions."

AschÕs experiments revealed the degree at which the thoughts and opinions of a member of the group were influenced by the other members of that group. He found people were more willing to ignore reality and give an incorrect answer in order to conform to the rest of the group.

LetÕs use an example that should sound familiar to most of you...The "Three Little Pigs".

The challenge: Following a hurricane on a coastal region, your company who makes prefabricated houses, needs to quickly develop a new type of house that can fulfill the communityÕs needs well into the future. As a leader in the company, you go to your materials team for their recommendation for roofing.

The materials team is made up of 7 members who LOVE working with straw and have done so for years, and 1 member who was recently enlightened on the merits of sheet metal.

What do you think their recommendation to you would be in the face of fear of not meeting the quick deadline? Exactly. Straw.

You may ask, what about the team member knowledgeable about sheet metal? According to AschÕs experiments, about one-third of the time a group member will conform to an incorrect answer or opinion of the group majority.

So - who have you surrounded yourself with for your projects?