Take a weirdo to lunch

History, it’s often said, is written by the victors. If so, they’re likely to be members of a Deviant’s Hall of Fame, says management thinker Tom Peters, since “history’s progress – from the dawn of civilisation until today – is measured and marked by the assaults of non-conformists”. To mark his 60th birthday, Peters penned a short manifesto, This I Believeencapsulating decades’ worth of learnings. One of his top tips: embrace the marginalised. “I have an abiding passion for the Weird Ones,” says Peters, famous for extolling the value of taking a “weirdo” to lunch. “I love the 26-year-old who interrupts her boss. I love the heckler at a political event…Hecklers alone (with incredible energy, persistence, and luck) change the dimensions of the playing field.” Successful companies such as Pixar and Apple have made it part of their corporate credo to “welcome ideas from misfits and malcontents”, add Idea Hunter authors, Andy Boynton and Bill Fischer. “They’re the people who are on their way out the door because their weird, wild or just plain different ideas aren’t being given an opportunity to grow.” Trouble is, such people are often challenging to work for or to manage, which means organisations shy away from hiring or trying to retain them. And that’s costly in innovation terms. “Neither (Steve) Jobs’ management style nor the sort of unconventional processes he used at Apple… would survive long in most organisations today,” says Simon Rucker, of London design and innovation consultancy, Seymourpowell. “Collegiality may make the process more pleasant and more fun, but that’s a recipe for becoming an innovation also-ran.” Rucker cites the example of prolific innovator, Thomas Edison, who regularly drove his Menlo Park employees to breaking point. “The real challenge for organisations trying to innovate transformationally is not finding better insights or developing better intellectual property,” he says. It’s “providing the type of structure, resources, governance, and culture that actually enable the abrasive, original Steve Jobses of the world to do what they’re great at.”

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