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The benefits of being a nonconformist in business

Social conformity is knowing you’re giving the wrong answer, but giving it anyway because it’s what everyone else is doing. Humans are social beings. We don’t like to be the odd one out. But there are benefits if we are.

Our capacity to survive and to thrive as a group is infinitely stronger than as isolated individuals. Today, belonging to a family, a group of friends or a company is 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 behavior to adapt to the group. That's why social rejection, unemployment, status loss, or being 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 do two things: Try to change the group ́s principles or leave the group. The first possibility 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 who prefer to go their own way leaving the group.

The nonconformist is valuable to a company because they detect 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 some.

A successful company has two problems to face: immobility and complacency. When we have a successful work system, we tend to continue doing the same thing. Why should we change? The problem is that the world changes, and our company can go from being a leader to falling behind within months. In those cases, the nonconformist detects the changes, warns the company, and challenges it to make brave strategies to guarantee its future survival.

A good leader has to look for the nonconformists, listen to them, and protect against the pressure of the group. The leader doesn't have to heed all of the warnings, but nonconformists are always a source of innovation and healthy development for a company.

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