The Big Idea
As Francesca Gino reports in this HBR article, Let Your Workers Rebel, Constructive Nonconformity promotes engagement, innovation, productivity, and performance.
This workplace research aligns with our research with families and in classrooms: When parents and/or teachers, create opportunities for kids to be themselves, to constructively question the status quo, to solve their own problems, and to view challenges as opportunities for growth and learning, they feel a greater sense of connection to themselves, to others, and to the purpose in their work.
When this happens, they show initiative in taking the lead in their own lives - engaging, innovating, and performing at higher levels. Here's how to apply the insights from this research in your family to equip your kids with these essential leadership skills.
The Status Quo
In a rapidly changing, highly competitive world, it’s more important than ever to equip our kids with the mindset and skill set they'll need to thrive and prosper now - and as adults. But there’s compelling evidence that conforming to today’s prevailing parenting strategies, which include asking our kids to do more and be more, are interfering in alarming ways with their ability to do well and be well.
To raise kids to be responsible, resilient, and resourceful adults who can lead well in their lives, there’s a significant advantage to looking well beyond getting our kids to conform to prevailing expectations. In fact, creating opportunities for our kids to rebel constructively fosters experiences that are essential to developing the exact mindset and skill set they need to thrive and prosper long term - even in the midst of working hard and facing the inevitable challenges of childhood, work, and life.
Applying the Research
In the context of the START Leadership* framework, the management and behavioral science insights highlighted in this article can be applied in family organizations to create a “culture” at home that promotes constructive nonconformity and develops an essential leadership mindset and skill set.
In Professor Gino's research, organizations who were found to be most effective in promoting constructive nonconformity did so in six ways. By building these tactics into the decisions you make and the actions and interactions you have with your kids, they’ll gain invaluable experience that will serve them well in living up to their potential, in navigating a path to a meaningful life, and in developing skills that will be highly valued by the organizations for whom they may one day work.
1. GIVE KIDS OPPORTUNITIES TO BE THEMSELVES
Encourage kids to reflect on what makes them feel authentic.
Tell kids what job needs to be done rather than how to do it.
Let kids solve problems on their own.
Let kids define their missions
2. ENCOURAGE KIDS TO BRING OUT THEIR SIGNATURE STRENGTHS
Give kids opportunities to identify their strengths.
Tailor jobs to kids’ strengths.
3. QUESTION THE STATUS QUO, AND ENCOURAGE KIDS TO DO THE SAME
Ask “Why?” and “What if?”
Stress that the family is (you are) not perfect.
Excel at the basics.
4. CREATE CHALLENGING EXPERIENCES
Continually inject novelty into work.
Identify opportunities for personal learning and growth
Give kids responsibility and accountability
5. FOSTER BROADER PERSPECTIVES
Create opportunities for kids to view problems from multiple angles
Use language that reduces self-serving bias.
(Encourage) diverse perspectives.
6. VOICE AND ENCOURAGE DISSENTING VIEWS
Look for disconfirming evidence.
Create dissent by default.
Identify courageous dissenters.
Well beyond requiring our children to conform and perform, embedding leadership development opportunities into our kids’ daily experiences, including constructive nonconformity, equips kids with the mindset and skill set they need to take the lead in their own lives and work. This approach, in the short term and in the long term, is more affirmative, productive, and enjoyable for us and our kids, and will one day be highly valued by the organizations in which they will contribute. Don't wait.
*The START Leadership framework provides a leadership language and process you can model, teach, and reinforce in your family. More can be found on the START-Leadership Website, in the blog post Don't Wait: Teach Your Kids The Leadership Skills They Need Now to Thrive & Prosper, and in the START books/workbooks available on Amazon
For Discussion Do you practice constructive nonconformity? Do you promote it in your family? What challenges have you faced? What benefits have you noticed? If you’re concerned about the high cost of high pressure in college prep communities, join the conversation, take action, and shift the culture in our communities for good.