Being different

Spot the "differents"

OK so I’m biased.

Well I don’t mean to be, but I am. Worse, I think I am less biased than most. But then, I’m biased.

I love the anecdote of the medical professor presenting himself to a rather erudite audience and saying “statistically speaking 50% of this room are practitioners who are worse than the average”, to which the response was flat denial, loud guffaws and probably outright terror from some.

We all like to think we are someone else at times. Not just average, and certainly not less than average.

And maybe a sure sign of this for me is when I see someone being different I say to myself “Go you good thing”, knowing that I no longer have the courage or motivation to “dance like nobody is watching” (other than to make my children laugh”).

The reality is I like to think I don’t conform, but I do, lots.

And because I do, how much of me have I lost, how much of we have we lost, and how much real leadership have we lost?

I expect the answer would terrify us.

Which is why I say “go you good thing” (but not yet so anyone can hear), why I look for the lights in the eyes, the mischief, the different view, the person who snubs etiquette, the noise, the silence, the independent thinker, the colour, the quiet withdrawal from boorish company and I celebrate the difference and know there is better to come.

It is also why I am terrified. Because I am unsure where we grow this,  I know we are poor at supporting it, and I am sure we seldom celebrate it.

For me it takes “different” to make “exceptional” otherwise the best you can be is very good at what someone else has already done.

Part of the challenge is picking the right “different”. ‘Me too’ and pretenders only get in the way and make the road harder for those with something truly valuable to offer.

What differences make a difference to you?

How could we support them?

Do you have your own story of being different and getting so frustrated you lost your ‘zing’?

I’m interested to hear.

Debate or dialogue

I Win!!!!


I’ve been there; the victorious debating team bludgeoning the opposition to death.

Then I stopped. What was the point in being able to win an argument from either side?

Of course there are some obvious occupations in which this comes in handy: lawyers, politicians, debt collectors and parents come to mind!

Many people continue to get better at this sort of verbal warfare long after college, and many of those become leaders and senior managers because they can win any argument, beat anybody down and defend the indefensible.

I wish I was joking. I’m not. And I don’t mean to sound bitter, I’ve been guilty myself (some might say even now).

I say this, because I feel strongly, debating is the wrong process to achieve a constructive way forward.

It’s win – lose, defend your position (right or wrong), destroy the opposition (Though re-living it, what fun that was as a teenager!).

Listen next time you reason someone into oblivion. What did it achieve? How did it help or build anything?

What can we do instead?

My pet concept is a school debating programme called ‘The constructive dialogue’. Where each party presents their case, then each side has to find ways to agree with the other side . Instead of Retort it’s Re-think. This would really get right brains flying.

In the work setting:

Relax you don’t need to be right. In fact there are many benefits in not winning.

Listen without preparing an answer. You’ll seem wiser and the other person will notice you have listened.

Agree. It doesn’t hurt. This doesn’t mean you need to provide the solution.

The magic paradox. A legal journal recently proposed this – rephrase what you have just been told or seen expressed and close it with a statement where they agree with you – like: “I expect you feel that the company hasn’t paid enough attention to its community, is that right?” What is ‘magic’ is the shift in demeanour of those with the issue, the instant they hear you understand them and that they agree with what you have said. (Which doesn’t mean you agree with them).

Close your mouth (last resort).

Read any publication by Peter Senge

What suggestions do you have?

How prevalent is the ‘debating syndrome’ in your work environment?

Can you begin to deactivate it?

Innovation or exclusion?

In a recent discussion I was asked how I harness innovation.

My immediate thought – How long is infinity?

A quick internet search shows many countries and many companies claiming to have the upper hand in this domain. For example Periora Innovation has an interesting article targeted for small to medium enterprises, which reflects much of the thinking out there:

• A better-informed team
• A rewarded team
• A better-informed customer
• A high-tech (college) partner

An original original
This ‘systematic ’ approach helps close a loop, for me though this is too stiff.

Business has only two functions – Marketing and Innovation
Peter Drucker

Many articles also talked about the difference with Creative’s, how to manage Geeks for the best return etc. – and here is the central point of this blog –

Everyone has an inner geek, a lingering creative, an innovator par excellence; and as leaders it’s your job to find it and keep it alive.

Supporting Innovation isn’t a separate part of the role it is an integral part of your role.

As leaders we must believe and acknowledge that innovation and creativity lurks in everyone. It is not the exclusive domain of the gifted, the super-intelligent or the ones with the brightest colours or the fastest computer.

If you had 200 employees will you progress further by each making a small innovation, a small gain, or by placing all your bets on the ‘smart ones’?

Allowing innovation to come through is about all the little things, about your agility as a leader and an organisation, about how you listen, and how you respond.

The devil doesn’t need an advocate. The brave need supporters, not critics.
Seth Godin Creativity

What processes and practices in your company suppress innovation by unintentionally sidelining the myriad of champions in the cheaper seats?

What can we do to encourage the ‘meek’ to be brave?