Rebels in Groups: 5 takeaways
Rebels in Groups, published in 2011, provides a detailed summary of the recent social psychology research on group and team behavior. Unlike much of the previous research that emphasizes the tendency of individuals in groups to conform, the researchers in Rebels in Groups found that all sorts of teams and work groups perform better when they can handle differences and deviance.
The book is rich with insights and sometimes surprises about the conditions under which Rebels at Work can be more effective. Here are our five favorite takeaways, in reverse order:
5. Most work teams tend not to welcome dissent from fellow team members. New ideas are usually received better when they come from outsiders; someone from the same company, for example, but working in a different group. This speaks to the need for rebels at work to build broad alliances that span team boundaries.
4. Staying on that theme, sometimes a leader will bring in an outsider to his work team to shake it up. But the new member often tones down her ideas because of the pressure to gain the acceptance of the new team. A better strategy is to bring in outsiders with new ideas as temporary appointments for a pre-determined length of time, a year or two.
3. Rebels need to work hard to understand the core norms of their group, their company or agency. Social change occurs when a group changes its position on what is normative.
2. Too often rebels arguing for new ideas struggle to persuade their colleagues. Trying to change other people's minds tends toward confrontation. The research suggests a more subtle approach. Instead of seeking victory for your ideas, work to make your ideas meaningful to your colleagues. That simple change in approach will lead the rebel to listen more carefully to the concern of others and perhaps even improve his ideas in ways that gain broader support.
And our favorite takeaway:
1. Rebels at Work can make organizations better even when their ideas are wrong and/or not accepted. Individuals exposed to other views will consider their own ideas more carefully and thus improve upon them.