In this guest post, innovation expert and co-founder of Agents of Spring, Evette Cordy, argues there’s a lot to be had from employing the mavericks, the crazies and the blue-sky thinkers…
Charles Darwin agonised over his beliefs on the theory of natural selection. He was unsure how it would be received, and what affect it could have on his reputation.
It wasn’t until competitor Alfred Russell Wallace, a respected fellow scientist, laid out a similar argument on evolution that Darwin chose to publish his. Darwin was incredibly curious, but it took him two decades to be brave enough to share his findings with the world.
In today’s business environment, curiosity is a competitive advantage. But you can’t wait around for your competitors to figure it out before you.
Do you play it safe?
Most of us spend 99 per cent of our time at work playing it safe, following the rules, processes and protocols. Organisational structure and order is there for a good reason. But it also means any deviation from the norm can be seen as negative, risky and/or dangerous to the integrity of the organisation.
Most of us are scared of standing out or going it alone. We fear being wrong, looking silly and feeling embarrassed, and that we might lose our job or miss out on the next promotion.
At what cost does this affect our curiosity, our ability to ‘find’ our most valuable problems?
You don’t find problems worthy of solving by playing it safe or following the rule book. To nurture curiosity, you need to be brave and embrace fear. You need to step into the unknown and out of your comfort zone. Fear is what builds boundaries around your thinking. Curiosity breaks them, and is the very foundation you need to identify future growth drivers of your business.
Humans love comfort. Research tells us that under pressure we prefer familiar options. For example, if you’re running late for a meeting and you know your normal route is going to be congested, you’re still more likely to take that route because it’s what you always do.
But if you always do what you always do, you will always get what you always get!
You will only ever unlock business problems worthy of solving if you stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone, if you rebel. It’s in this ‘stretch zone’ where the magic happens and opportunities arise.
How often do you ask the question: ‘Why is this done this way?’
Business leaders need to encourage a rebel mindset, to look at problems from different perspectives to unlock possibilities and break through thinking. It requires a new playbook, one where:
- Curiosity and problem-finding is not a one-off activity, it is a continuous part of the business culture.
- Leaders are willing to leave the zone of comfort and step into the zone of possibilities (stretch zone).
- Cognitive diversity and non-conformity are emphasised for breakthrough thinking.
- Rebels are encouraged to think differently and to challenge authority and the status quo.
As the true rebel Steve Jobs once said: “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 … You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but 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 ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”