To challenge conventional thinking or introducing a tradition-busting bold new idea sounds easier said than done to a new joiner.
Who wants to be dismissed as ‘that rebellious upstart’ by seniors? But then, who wants to live life being the ‘yes man’?
How then do you challenge the status quo, while not becoming a ‘challenge’ yourself?
Take the following lesson to find out.
Please study the video carefully and attempt the quiz question located at the bottom of the page at the end of each lesson.
Good Luck and Happy Learning!
In the summer of 1662, Thomas Willis, an English doctor and scientist, considered by many to be a madman, gathered a crowd in a basement inside the Oxford University.
His objective was to conduct a study on the human brain. Willis believed the matter inside our brain contained the secrets to our very well -being, and he endeavored to map the brain’s inner workings.
Willis’s theories contradicted the standard assumptions of the day, which included the beliefs that a person’s feelings and thoughts were driven by spirit, not some tangle of ‘newrons’ and chemistry embedded inside the head.
Writer Carl Zimmer explains in his book Soul Made Flesh, that Willis’s theories were not at all popular, particularly with the chiefs of the prevailing religious order of those times.
Willis, however, persisted against odds and continued his work researching the brain and the nervous system.
Today, Thomas Willis is widely credited as the founder of neurology, and is considered to be one of the greatest neuroanatomists of all time.
History stands witness to the legacy of such change driven people like Willis who challenged convention and tradition. To cite a few other examples- Einstein’s books were burned by the Nazis. The Wright brothers were ridiculed by locals for wasting their time and money trying to build a flying machine.
These pioneering individuals and teams were instrumental in creating inventions and movements that changed humanity. In their time they were called madmen, lunatics, egotists, and even demons.
Today we call them pioneers, innovators, leaders, masters, and heroes.
And they all had one thing in common.
They dared to challenge the status quo!
To challenge the status quo is to behave or do something in a way contrary to what is generally accepted or expected. To identify innovative ways of doing things for your project, your client, and your organization.
It is to test the unproven, dive deep into the unspoken, and challenge the unchallenged. Challenging the status quo at work has its rewards- you may end up saving money, driving key efficiencies, and creating better services and products for your customers.
In fact, as humans, we have an innate desire to achieve something meaningful and significant in our lives. This is a fundamental construct of human nature- we are all born with the ability to do great things and develop into the best versions of ourselves.
But if excellence is one of our primary aims in life why do we find ourselves missing the mark?
Brigadier General John Michel, experienced leader, humanitarian, visionary, and renowned status quo buster is the author of the groundbreaking book,’ Mediocre Me: How Saying No to the Status Quo will propel you from Ordinary to Extraordinary’. He rightly states that an attitude of ‘good enough’ conveniently becomes a suitable alternative to giving our best to our work.
To understand this better, take a moment to reflect on these questions and ascertain if you have accepted a mediocre mentality
If the answer to any of these questions is anything other than ‘no’, you may have unwittingly become a prisoner of mediocrity.
Is mediocrity such a bad thing though? – It’s certainly easier, safer and more comfortable to stick with something we are familiar with, isn’t it?
To be fair, there are certainly times where settling for mediocre may make sense, but consistently working below your potential will lead you down a path of compromise. It will ultimately lead you to adopt a way of thinking, where you begin to believe that settling for average is a perfectly acceptable way to lead your life.
That’s how high the stakes are.
Especially in today’s competitive environment. Many would rather stick with the tried and tested than risk ruffling feathers or changing what has maybe a successful way of doing business.
For the young millennials, to challenge the status quo at work is tantamount with taking the bull by its horns. In a lot of organizations, superiors tend to view new ideas more as a threat than something that could drive the business forward. Moreover, these higher-ups believe that organizational breakthroughs can/should only occur at their level. At this intersection, it becomes really hard for anyone to challenge the status quo. It’s undoubtedly hard to challenge the status quo in a hierarchy-driven place.
But irrespective of where you are or where you stand in the pecking order, you can challenge the status quo, if you do it right. Here’s how:
Just do it for the right reasons – and don’t challenge for the sake of it. Link the need for change to clear business benefits and you will challenge the status quo effectively.
Even though everyone knows that methods must eventually change with the times lest we become obsolete, challenging the status quo is never easy. You will need to overcome a range of resistance behaviours – from mild mockery to potentially aggressive put-downs – like in the case of Thomas Willis and the Wright Brothers.
But don’t let that defeat you, else the status quo that you know needs challenging will simply remain and the culture where you work will stagnate. It time to shrug off the ‘Mediocre Me’ mentality and step out of your comfort zone. After all, who wants to live a life or career settling for the average?