Agility and innovation have to be a priority for companies to survive in today’s dynamic environment.
Ground-breaking discoveries often result from challenging established ways of thinking or doing, but people generally feel that to fit in, they need to conform.
Companies need to nurture their rebels and encourage innovative thinking.
In her ground-breaking research, Francesca Gino found that making space for a form of rebelling that challenges existing norms led to innovation and higher productivity. She has called this form of rebellion “Constructive Nonconformity” 1.
Companies can create space for Constructive Nonconformity:
Embrace constructive dissent
Conformity is common because it is rewarded when conflicts and differences are often seen as problems. However, different ideas and perspectives are crucial for innovation. To welcome and encourage constructive dissent, create a safe space where you invite criticism and constant communication by embracing the ‘why?‘ and ‘what if?‘.
Give employees opportunities to be authentic
Studies show that those who are able to show up authentically at work are on average more engaged 2. Employees who feel safe to express their ideas and working styles will feel comfortable challenging decisions and practices they may disagree with.
Reward innovative thinking
Creating a culture of innovative thinking is about empowering people to take risks and drive change. To enable this, celebrate discoveries but also embrace failures as learning opportunities rather than judging them.
Create opportunities to innovate
People feel motivated to perform well and innovate when their work involves challenges and they feel mentally energised. One way of doing this is by having “innovation challenges” to provide people with opportunities to work on projects and indulge in creative problem solving.
Cultivating constructive rebellion allows companies to prosper. Companies should look at designing cultures that have a balance of structure and freedom that enables people to do their best work. This will increase and support engagement, productivity, and innovation while ensuring agility in a competitive world.
1 Gino, F. (2016, October 24). Let Your Workers Rebel. Harvard Business Review.
2 Cable, D.M. & Kay, V.S., (2012). Striving for Self-Verification during Organizational Entry.
Academy of Management Journal, 55(2), pp.360–380.