The shorter line
In a famous experiment carried out by american psychologist Solomon Ash in 19151, a series of people were asked if a drawn line on a blackboart was longer, equal or shorter than another one. The answer was given aloud and in the presence of the rest of the participants. Despite the obvious answer, everyone gave the wrong answer following the psychologist´s instructions. When the final participant who received no instructions had to answer, he was in a dilemma: to give the obviously correct answer (absolutly obvious) or to purposefully give the incorrect one, to avoid beign a discordant element among the group.
Only 25% of the people were resolute in giving the right answer instead oof buckling under the group´s pressure. That means, that three out of four participants gave wrong answers, deribelately making a mistake to suit the group´s opinion. That is called social conformism.
Humans are social beings. This characteristic explains a great deal of our supremacy over stronger, faster or better-acclimated animals. Our capacity to survive and to thrive as group is infinitely bigger as group than as isolated individuals.
Today the social bounds and belonging to a family, a group of friends or a company as fundamental not only for personal success, but for our mental health. We have to shape our life in groups because our biology drives us to do so: the brain analyzes the faces of the people around us, looking for signs of approval, and when it doesn´t find them or instead finds rejection, it triggers an alarm that tries to correct our behaviour to adapt to the group. That´s why social rejection, unemployment, status loss, or beign bullied is so devastating.
But social conformism can lead a group or a company to disaster when the beliefs and principles are wrong. A lot of people detect the problem, but only the nonconformist will take the lead and react.
The nonconformist can make two things: Try to change the group´s principles or leave the group. The first posibility is a classic leadership example: people able to stand up to change the status-quo for the group´s sake. The second possibility is followed by the independent, individuals that prefer to go their own way leaving the group.
The nonconformist in the company
The nonconformist is valuable to a company because she or he detects problems and put them on the table before they become unmanageable. The difficulty is that casting light on a problem often challenges the privileges of a few.
Don´t confuse a nonconformist with a complainer. A nonconformist detects a problem and proposes a solution. A complainer just sees problems all around, even when there are no problems.