To the Misfits!

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“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

― Rob Siltanen (Not Steve Jobs!)

You probably all know this quote. It’s a great quote and I think a lot of us can relate on one level or another. In this ever changing world these words have never been truer, but most of us live in a very structured world. A world that says it wants the crazy ones and the misfits, but really only wants them if they work within the boundaries of the rule book! Very few of us get away with breaking or even bending rules because if we do the system we live in breaks down.

Recently Elon Musk has told his team that if a meeting is unproductive or a waste of their time then they should walk out of it!! I love this, but can you imagine what would happen if you walked out of a crap boring meeting? What would your boss, colleagues or clients think? I can’t imagine they’d sit there and say, “Don’t worry about Mark walking out, he’s one of the crazy ones and obviously getting no value from this!” And who’s to say what meetings are unproductive? A waste of time meeting to one person might be really valuable to another and you walking out would probably disrupt that value! Now Elon is a true disruptor of industries and even the world for that matter so I understand what he’s trying to achieve. Though not many leaders, managers, colleagues and clients are like Elon, it’s just too disruptive in an organised world.

I’m very fortunate that through my day job and my ‘side hustle’, Make One’s Mark, I’m invited to work with and mentor some amazing people, where along the journey we discover extraordinary! When I started mentoring it was predominantly within the property and construction industry, which by its own admission is quite slow on the uptake of new ideas and innovations and has some very traditional and age old professions. More recently I’ve been really lucky to mentor and coach people who have exposed me to other industries, and it’s opened my eyes. Not because there are big differences in people at works struggles, concerns and successes, but that peoples experiences and issues are basically the same, good and bad no matter what the industry or profession.

This comes down to two main factors:

  1. Firstly every industry has people involved, even ones where robots in manufacturing are prolific. People run the business, so human behaviours are prevalent and consistent in all walks of life.
  2. Secondly, business is governed by rules, a few can be bent but rarely are any truly broken. These rules also help manage risk and as much as we really want to break the mould, business common sense in managing risk of outcomes usually wins out.

No matter who I mentor, whether they are 20 somethings kicking off their career or people at the top their game, again and again similar struggles, issues and insights raise their heads. Obviously at differing levels depending through career progression, but it’s amazing how common themes are!

Driving new ideas and enabling real innovation within the framework of business is hard, especially in mature businesses. In my experience most businesses struggle to drive true innovation. Even when the top level of C suite try and enable innovation and change it’s usually just an existing idea given a 2.0 makeover. It’s usually the spin that helps get it up and over the line.

I’m also fascinated about what is being accepted as new ideas that seem to be embraced by the masses but to me don’t make sense. For example, one night this month sitting in my hotel room, a show I’d never seen or even heard of came on the TV. It was called Lip Sync Battle where great talented artists come on stage and battle out over a lip syncing contest. Now this show, I subsequently found out, was born as an entertainment slot on the Jimmy Fallon show. I guess as a slot for a bit of fun within a broader show kind of makes sense, but to now have a full one hour show of really talented people doing not very talented stuff as entertainment doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe I’m finally getting old and missing the point but isn’t this a little like an amazing architect stencilling on tracing paper over someone else’s work and then colouring it in by numbers?

This got me thinking, we have some amazing talent in our businesses, but in a lot of cases they get beaten down by the system to comply with tasks that use none of their talent. They’re lip syncing and it’s not fulfilling them. It just doesn’t make sense. We know we live in a world where reality TV fame or just looking good has arguably replaced talent but has this leaked into everyday work where we accept mediocrity or even embrace it in some quarters?

Now I get that we all have a different ‘purpose’ in life, and that some of us go to work to support that purpose outside of it, like family or a passion. Some of us want to have a go at changing the world and through our work is a great way of achieving it.

Of course there is always hope. Luckily there are people wanting to make a change, stretch the boundaries of what can be achieved. So for all the lip syncing out there, there are stars, misfits and rebels. Some of the best disruptors and disruptions to businesses and industries come from radical ideas, thinking and people, usually outside of their fields of expertise.

So as a mentee of mine recently said to me, “The thought that the bravest freshest ideas will only come from random connections between escapees and misfits from all over the place is actually pretty exciting!” Amen to that.

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