Harvard Professor: Why Breaking the Rules is Good for Business


Rules are created to bring order and gain conformity in a place that might otherwise be chaotic, but sometimes, it is conformity that causes an adverse effect to employee engagement.

According to Francesca Gino, a professor from the Harvard Business School, the employees who conform less and break the rules are good for business. It's just that conformity is so prevalent in work places because of one, conforming can make people feel accepted and that they are part of a group. Conformity in organizations also makes employees comfortable when sticking to the usual ways of thinking and doing, and maintaining status quo.

Gino ran a six-week experiment and shared the results in the latest publication of Harvard Business Review, where she discussed about conformity.

In the experiment, a group of respondents received an email which asked them to do the following:

  • Express their individuality by dressing up according to their preference and being unique and authentic when it comes to communication.
  • Question an existing practice, or disagree or offering suggestion instead of agreeing with the rest
  • Give emphasis to their own skills and talents and focus on their interests.

They were given six weeks before they were asked to answer the same survey, and the results have shown the following data.

  • 21% have become more engaged
  • 18% are more likely to innovate and take charge
  • 14% have shown an improvement when it comes to performance
  • 12% have an increased curiosity

According to Gino, these results have been brought about by their willingness to break the norms.

 "To stay engaged, we need to fight the urge to conform to the expectations of others, the status quo, and even our own point of view ," Gino concluded.

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