Resist Conformity – Don’t be a Hypnotized Chicken
I woke this morning with a blurred recollection of my uncle teaching me how to hypnotize a chicken. I can’t tell if it was a dream or reality, but I know it’s about resisting conformity.
The more I think about it, the more it feels real. It doesn’t help that I re-read portions of, “Orbiting the Giant Hairball,” yesterday.
Orbiting the giant hairball:
On page 51 of Hairball, Gordon MacKenzie recalls the story his father told him about hypnotizing chickens. You push a chicken’s beak to the ground and draw a line in the dirt out from the beak. Oh la la! The chicken stands motionless for about 30 minutes. This must be true. I confirmed on the Internet.
The company line:
MacKenzie says when you join an organization they push your beak to the ground and hypnotize you with a line.
“This is our history. This is our philosophy. This is our…” Blah, blah, blah. If you aren’t careful you’ll lose yourself to the line.
How to resist conformity:
The mesmerizing-line is company culture. It’s all the rage these days and it’s important, but resist conformity.
Alignment is life; conformity is death when it comes to culture.
Desire for approval and advancement drive you to conformity. Don’t turn into a Lego block that fills a hole in a wall. The only distinction in square Lego blocks is color and color is frivolous triviality when everyone is the same.
Conformity nullifies diversity.
How to conform:
Company culture is essential to performance, just don’t allow culture to drain your unique contribution and personal joy. The simplest way to walk the tightrope between individuality and conformity is reflecting on joy. When work consistently drains joy you’ve lost yourself.
You’ve been hypnotized like a chicken when drudgery consistently outweighs joy.
What aspects of organization mission, vision, and values light you up?
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Good Morning, never heard the hypnotizing chicken story before. But, I will definitely check it out. Love the illustration on diversity. I will be sharing this one today!
Glad to be useful, Tim. I’ve been a hypnotized chicken many time. 🙂 It’s easy. Just fit in. But it’s hard to standout when you’re trying to fit in.
Dan although culture and leadership are key, I encourage people to learn where the organizational lines or limits are and if necessary occasionally cross them for the benefit of your team members or your mission. Great post!
I got the image of coloring outside the lines. Obviously we need to spend time inside the lines. But, innovation includes rule breaking.
Today is my 1 year anniversary holding the same position but working for a new “company” . I needed this. I love what I’m doing and for the most part the people here are great to work with and supportive. Despite that I’m reminded how difficult changing “companies” can be – trying to find the line; deciding when to spend time inside the line; resisting the vortex of conformity – all very challenging. I hope they hired me for what I could bring to the table, not what I could conform to. All very challenging, but I’ll continue on.
Wonderful reflection, Suzanne. I hadn’t thought about hiring practices. But you don’t want a bunch of hypnotized chickens on the team. I feel the danger of hiring for fit. Maybe there should be a not-fit in people we hire.
I love asking, “Why did they hire you?” We all should know why we were hired. It’s a question we should ask as soon as we are hired. Perhaps, something like, “If in six months you are absolutely thrilled with my performance, what did I do that made you feel that way?”
I wish you well.
Groupthink leads to conformity. One company starts a DEI program and before you know it, every company has one. Many employees don’t know what their DEI program is trying to accomplish, but senior leaders can proclaim—we have a DEI program.
Thinking back–the organization’s mission, vision, and strategy were the factors that got me excited. The results of your strategy is something you can see on a frequent basis. In sports you can evaluate your strategy after each contest. Did we win or lose? When you strategy is producing the great results, it’s exciting!
Ahh, groupthink. What a great term for a bunch of hypnotized chickens sitting around the table all staring at the same line. Glad you jumped in.
Orbiting the Giant Hairball is one of my favorite books – I was lucky enough to have heard Gordon Mackenzie speak many years ago! Thanks for sharing.
Hey mkagast, A friend recommended MacKenzie’s book a couple years ago. I’m so glad I got it. It seems like he produced a book that represented who he was. We could use more books like that.
Organisations are not interested in diversity beyond ticking a box to say that they have some. They are not interested in individuality or joy. They want blind, slavish obedience to the rules, and those that don’t provide it walk a tightrope all right. You are constantly trying to avoid being knocked off the tightrope.
The lower down the totem pole people are, the more conformity is demanded, so that when they get further up, your advice is like trying to explain colour theory to a rock.
Thanks Mitch. I work with organizations that are interested in people and doing the right thing. They believe that serving people is the best way to succeed organizationally. I suppose you could say it’s selfish. You could also so doing things that serve others and bring value to you is smart. It can be done with sincere motives. However, as you indicate, some organizations don’t give a crap. All that matters is making as much money as possible in the shortest amount of time.
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Very good post, it gives a new perspective about hipnotism. Also invites to reflect about how animals can take time to analyse its surrounding, and how similar it could be with the human beings. Thanks for sharing this dream of yours!