In his latest Pinkcast, Dan Pink sits with Olga Khazan, a staff writer at The Atlantic and author of Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World.
In the interview, Olga talks about what it means to be weird, what the advantages are to being weird, and how such outsiders can advance their offbeat ideas in organizational settings where people typically resist such ideas. In other words, how to channel your inner weirdness in order to be more effective.
Khazan notes that weird refers to being different than others in terms of your beliefs, your identity, or your ideas. The advantage of being weird is that studies have shown that people who are rejected and feel like an outsider come up with more creative ideas and more creative solutions.
So the big question is, how can a person get an oddball idea accepted in a traditional organization?
Khazan introduces the idea of idiosyncrasy credits, a term first brought to light back in 1958 in the article Conformity, status, and idiosyncrasy credit in the journal Psychological Review.
The process of building up such credits involves establishing yourself in the organization by conforming, agreeing with what others are saying, and going along with things until the group thinks of you as one of their own.
At that point, you are ready to share your weird idea, or as Khazan puts it, “let your freak flag fly”.
I think selling a weird idea also involves a good deal of confidence on the part of the person trying to sell it. The odds are that oddball ideas are likely first met with a great deal of resistance, even if the group thinks of you as one of their own. To get past that resistance requires confidence in yourself and confidence in your idea. I think a good way to build up such confidence is to have a few wins under your belt; once you do, I think you will have more confidence in yourself, and so will others.
Bottom line – three cheers for the weirdos.
You can read an excerpt from Khazan’s book in The Atlantic – “The Perks of Being a Weirdo”.
Here’s the Pinkcast video (opens in a new window):