I’m a big fan of author Dan Pink’s videos series Pinkcast where he does a rapid fire presentation of ideas and concepts, or a super speedy interview with another bright mind and gives them a chance to share their theories and ideas (no matter how weird).
The latest edition has Dan interviewing Olga Khazan, author of the new book “Weird – the power of being an outsider in an insider world“. The video is just a little over two minutes long, so click the image below to visit DanPink.com and watch it.
I gotta say — I did not agree with this author…
Unless you watched the video above, my little rant isn’t going to make much sense, so please click the link above and watch the video first.
It’s important for me to start by saying, I’m taking the video at face value.
I have not read the book she just released (I only learned of it in the video) and perhaps there are some subtleties in the technique that were missing from the examples given in this super brief micro-interview.
I’ve no argument that outsiders are perceived by insiders as weirdos — as she states, it just means your different from the majority of the people around you.
I also agree with the concept that people from outside a group can come up with more creative solutions to problems than insiders. I’ve actually written about it several times on this website.
Where I begin to dissent is the way the author recommends outsiders ingratiate themselves to the insider to demonstrate they are not-so weird. She literally says to conform at first, agree with everyone in meetings as sort of a “yes man”, and to just go along with the group until they think you are “one of them”.
Once you’re considered part of the herd (my word, not hers) maybe weeks or months later, Khazan says that’s the time to try and get buy-in on your weird ideas.
The formula as Dan Pink summarizes it is:
Conform, Build-up Credits, then pitch your Weird ideas
Based on my experience, if you masquerade as an insider and take that long to start bring in ideas from left field — you’ve missed your chance. The other insiders won’t understand where this new weirdness is coming from and why you’ve got an attitude problem all of a sudden.
I don’t disagree that you want the insiders to see you as less threatening to their way of life, but I don’t think you have to be a “yes man” to do it. You can accomplish the same thing with less subterfuge by demonstrating empathy and understanding toward their challenges and prior attempts to conquer them.
The insider will see that you understand them and are not there to make them look bad or embarrass them. Once they know you’re not there to do them harm, they will be much more likely to work with you on a creative (and maybe even weird) solution instead of working against you — all without you having to play the part of an infiltrating double agent.
Because that wouldn’t be weird, so much as it would be a bit manipulative.