Do you remember the movie “Dead Poets Society”? Does Carpe Diem, a desk set and “Captain, My Captain” ring any bells? Anyway, Robin Williams plays an English teacher trying to help his students learn about poetry and life. At one moment in the movie, he takes his students to the school courtyard just to stroll around in a circle. After only a brief moment of walking in a circle, the boys begin to march and clap in rhythm. Robin William’s character then teaches the boys about conformity:
I brought [you] up here to illustrate the point of conformity: the difficulty in maintaining your own beliefs in the face of others…now, we all have a great need for acceptance. But you must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own, even though others may think them odd or unpopular, even though the herd may go, ‘That’s baaaaad.’
We see conformity all the time in business – most airlines act alike and most automated telephone systems have menu options that are confusing or lead to dead ends (I absolutely HATE this!)
Why do we feel at times the need to conform?
For the most part it’s because it’s safe and easy. We trick ourselves into believing it’s safer not to stand out and subject ourselves to the possibility of “getting it wrong.” Not to mention that it’s easy to join the crowd because it requires little thought or attention to direction – you just coast in the ruts left by others.
But following others in your own industry is like outsourcing your company’s soul. What good is the body without a soul? Stand up, be different and get noticed.