Cause for a Rebel

How might challenging the status quo help you respectfully serve those around you?

July 29, 2013

Those who “challenge,” or interact with expression of independent thought, ask tough questions, and do not accept information without verification could be labeled rebellious skeptics. 

Perception of others may be that such individuals are difficult and non-accommodating.

Teenagers are a cohort that comes to mind as a common example of such rebels.  However, we accept this questioning of authority and challenging of the status quo as a normal part of growing up.  It allows teens to learn about themselves and the world around them, and teens may prompt authority figures to reconsider their own attitudes and beliefs on various matters. 

Oftentimes, when we reach adulthood, we may more readily adopt to notions of conformity.  The questioning of authority figures may not be as acceptable, and we may be less inclined to challenge those who supervise, make policy, provide data, or set standards—especially if such sources have a large following, established expertise, or great influence.  We may hope to be accommodating.

But, we might consider that immediate deference to an authoritative source can be detrimental. 

We must be vigilant in tracking the ethics, motives, and principles of any authority figure to ensure the accuracy and integrity of data and opinions they present. It is necessary to question and evaluate our sources.

Reaching consensus on work teams, too, is good and important. But perhaps decisions are best made after questions are asked and evidence is evaluated rather than by motivation to conform or defer for pleasantry’s sake. Making good decisions requires thorough analysis, which at times might prove painful.

As a manager, employee, or consumer, do you accommodate without considering long term repercussions? How might directly challenging the status quo be advantageous in respectfully serving those around you?

‘It’s nice to be important, but more important to be nice.’—John Templeton, philanthropist.

“You may have to step outside your comfort zone a bit in order to succeed as a boss,” says an Intuit small business blog post. “If you’re too nice… you may be letting other people take advantage of you, which could hurt your company. If you’re too rigid… you may lose employees to competitors with more supportive company cultures.”

Balance between rationality and emotion as an authority figure is important on the job. Four guidelines to achieve strategic yet harmonious interactions:

Employees may find it easier to avoid conflict and please the boss, according to Harvard Business ReviewBut “the problem with this attitude is that it becomes harder to take initiatives, and employees never do take their bosses on.”

A culture of automatic acceptance of authority can stifle employees and leave management unaware of insights front line employees can share with regard to competitor activities and customer desires.

This lack of insight is expensive for companies, and change of culture to invite feedback is possible but requires persistence.

Is making an easy or quick decision without question nice? It may have dire consequences for “Banks Ready to Use Low-Quality Collateral If It’s Cheap,” according to Bloomberg.

“One in three financial institutions would accept ‘low-quality, complex and opaque’ collateral to back trades provided that it’s cheap,” says a Swiss survey, which found that cost trumped quality among more than half of respondents.

Further, “When our competition begins to compete on the quality of collateral they are prepared to take, the ‘race to the bottom’ becomes a very real outcome.”

Success today requires deep insight into customer behaviors, astute management of risk, and reinvention of the banking business model, says an Accenture study, “The Looming Global Analytics Talent Mismatch in Banking.” 

Those with analytical talent and who can “use statistics, quantitative analysis, and information-modeling techniques to make business decisions” (and perhaps question authority?) will be in demand, and supply is short in the financial services arena.

Successful service providers will use “innovative skills and sourcing strategies to address mismatches. Companies that make that investment will achieve a competitive advantage over rivals who find their growth strategies frustrated by a dearth of analytics talent. Banks should begin now to plot their strategy for finding talent.”

‘Opinions are made to be changed—or how is truth to be got at?’—Lord Byron, English poet.

Will research findings this week change your opinions about how to best capture the loan market?

“Between January 2009 and June 2011…the percentage of U.S. households that had ever used high-cost nonbank credit rose from 11.8 to 14.2%… The demographic composition of nonbank credit users also shifted toward population segments normally considered economically advantaged: older, nonminority, more educated, married couples, and those with incomes above $50,000,” says the Urban Institute.  

  Is this a demographic you might serve? Many households are financially stressed and “45% of nonbank credit users needed such funds for basic living expenses versus unexpected needs.”

Meanwhile, “Loan Growth Rolls On for Big Banks,” says Automotive News. “Some of the biggest banks in auto finance boosted loan volume in the second quarter as U.S. light-vehicle sales rose 9% from a year earlier.”

Can you penetrate this market of growing auto loan demand? Note also that “Leasing accounted for 28% of new-vehicle financing in the first quarter this year, up from 24% a year ago.”

Finally, know about “Online Lending Alternatives You Shouldn’t Be Ignoring,” as outlined by Entrepreneur. “The small business lending market has been primed for disruption ever since the economic downturn began. On one end of the market, you have traditional banks that are conservative in their approach…

“Then, there are merchant cash advance providers that continue to capitalize on small businesses by offering financing rates as high as 60% to 80%. This has opened the door for a new segment of online alternatives lenders to better serve small businesses.”

This article reveals the advantages online lenders offer to gain market share, and highlights a “key player” issuing these types of loans: “Fundation, which is fairly new to the market. Other lenders… are similar but are based on a peer-to-peer business model as opposed to a direct lending platform like a traditional bank.”

Will deference to traditional lending practices allow you to compete in the evolving small business loan market?

Rebellion for the sake of it is not a wise course of action. All facts and opinions are important considerations.

However, questioning conformity also is valuable. The posing of tough questions and testing of authority may initially appear self-serving but ultimately can serve the best interests of those around us: members and our fellow employees.

Sometimes it is quite appropriate to rebel against tried and true practices or beliefs of the masses to foster innovation, meet demands, and ensure quality.

Challenge yourself. Should you defer?






Lora Bray is a research librarian at CUNA.