When it comes to teamwork, greats like John Maxwell have convinced us that together we can achieve more - but is that always true? Conformity and teamwork seem interchangeable in plenty of the modern business approaches we see, and this kind of compliance-encouragement has landed us in a tricky space. Rebel and Reason Founder, Nicola Smith, has been spending a lot of time putting conformity on the chopping block, and I think it's just what our business ecosystem needs.

Conventionality Is Out

Conformity means compliance and obedience, which drives conventionality  and traditionalism. When we are trapped by the walls of conformity, our thoughts, ideas, and ability to innovate are too. Rebellion, on the other hand, creates space for individuality, which is the "I" everyone's team has been missing for a long time now.

There Is No "I" In Team

Work culture has become so immersed in team-centric everything, that we eventually shifted all focus away from individuality, and the conformity culture we see today was just an unintended consequence. The idea of safe spaces might seem like overkill to some, but the need for a so-called safe space was also an unintended consequence of this team-centric overhaul. This idea that all businesses must all think, create, and innovate the same left plenty feeling out of place, with no space to call their own per se. And when an individual is placed in a box, we will see, time and time again, their abilities will remain within that box as well. While rebellion may seem scary to corporations, the flip-side of that is a lack of innovation that becomes so rooted, it eventually becomes the thread holding the fabric of company culture together.

Fear Kills Energy

The very idea of conformity is one based on fear, and fear stifles everything in its path, permeating the boundaries of everything it is allowed to touch. As Tesla pointed out, it's all energy - the people, the ideas, the processes, the products, the profits - or a lack thereof. This is the twenty-first century, and we are far too advanced in our abilities, as a collective, to operate in a culture of conformity, both personally and professionally.

Where Innovation Thrives

When people are not expected to confirm and conformity does not equal success, fear dissipates, and innovation spreads like wildfire. That doesn't mean every innovative direction will pan out, but even if a portion do, that's more acceleration forward than existed in that space than before. Growing innovation, by way of individuality and nonconformity, is crucial to the long-term success of a business. In addition, according to recent research, 84% of customers deem it very important that the company's they frequent are innovative. The perception of innovation weighs heavily on purchasing decisions.

How to Deliberately Create A Culture of Nonconformity

Use these starting points as a way to begin creating your culture of nonconformity, and watch as your team of rebels with a cause blaze trails you never imagined.

  1. Encouragement to challenge the status quo is the first step in creating a culture of mass innovation.

  2. Incentivizing the growth of individuals, will require effort, but will minimize impact, fear, turnover, and loss of talent in the long-term. Monetize your people by investing in their ability to innovate.

  3. Lastly, sell authenticity in everything you do. Smith talks a lot about the role authenticity plays when it comes to success, and it can't be one layer deep. The authenticity that future-proofs for business must be deeply embedded in your culture, your team, your individuals, your products, your services, and your leadership.

A rebellious spirit, as Smith aptly points out, in business translates to savvy problem-solving abilities, that allow her (and other rebels) to see possibilities where others see closed doors. This is worth seeking out individualism, and creating a culture where the nonconformists rule, and teamwork happens effortlessly as a byproduct.

Published on: Mar 12, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.