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Be A Flamingo

While listening to a podcast recently, the host used the term ‘sofa-preneur’ to describe people who have brilliant ideas but take no action. This week I am exploring CONFORMITY, a leading reason why these fantastic thoughts never materialise into reality.

Conformity is not just our compliance with standards, rules, or laws but our behaviours developed by socially accepted conventions. These societal norms often hold us back when developing new concepts, as we don’t want to stand out in the crowd. And in this modern world, where social media allows a level of anonymity for unsavoury comments, we want to feel safe.

But without people challenging the norm, the Civil Rights Act, women having the vote in most countries, and legally recognised same-sex partnerships in the UK would not exist. Many industry disruptors, such as Uber (a travel business that owns no vehicles!), challenged their respective marketplaces to find better solutions to modern-day problems. By directing it in the right way, what I like to call 'friendly friction' can make a difference.

Human psychology plays a large part in our conformity, with our positive affirmation of societal norms often driven by peer pressure. Without us knowing our enthusiasm to develop ideas is squashed before we start. In the 1950s, Solomon Asch, a Polish-American psychologist, investigated whether social pressure could affect a person's decision making. The experiment produced some interesting results.

The basis of the test was straightforward, with participants comparing a target line with three other choices and then stating which was the nearest match. There was an obvious correct answer, but Asch added a twist, with each group of eight people containing only one real participant. The other seven were stooges, who agreed to give the same wrong answer in two-thirds of trials.

Amazingly, on 75% of occasions, all eight test subjects gave the same response. The real participant followed the rest of their peer group, despite later admitting they knew it was wrong. And without any pressure to agree, participants gave a correct answer in over 99% of cases.

So, why did the participants agree? Their majority cited that they didn’t believe the answer they gave was correct but agreed to avoid ridicule or being thought peculiar. Sound familiar?

Humans conform for two reasons, to fit in with a group (normative influence) or the belief that those people are better informed (informational influence). 

My challenge for you is to stand up, be brave, and speak out. Challenge the norms that stop you, your teams, and your business from realising true potential.

Be a flamingo in a flock of pigeons!

And unleash the power in your business!

David Rogers, Founder & CEO of Fuelled, Fit and Fired Up

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