Let’s set things straight from the get-go. Everybody is someone else’s weirdo.
So how exactly do we define what’s “weird”?
In the corporate world, weirdness covers three particular areas.
- First of all, weird is something that deviates from the norm, or in our particular case, something that’s different from the company’s dominating culture. The company weirdo in a start-up is probably that one guy who comes dressed in a suit and tie everyday, whereas everyone else wears jeans and a t-shirt.
- Secondly, a weirdo might be someone who thinks differently from the rest of their colleagues, who have a more conventional way of thinking.
- And lastly, a weirdo is an atypical profile; someone who has taken the road less travelled in terms of their education and professional experience. Or someone who has stayed off the beaten path. In big companies, it’s usually that one colleague who never went to business or engineering school.
And unfortunately, when faced with these so-called weirdos in an interview, recruiters and managers tend to reject them right off the bat. But who can blame them? It’s only human to dismiss the unfamiliar! As soon as we’re confronted with something we don’t understand, something that surprises or even irritates us, we tend to avoid it and stay in our comfort zone to steer clear of any unnecessary efforts.
Yet, according to American academic Michael Porter in 1985, the only way for a company to create or maintain its competitive advantage is to be different! And we can’t be different if everyone is thinking, acting, living, and even dressing the same way, right?
So the real questions are: How do we stand out from the crowd? How do we inspire innovation?
Well, according to British journalist and businessman Matt Ridley in his infectious TED Talk, innovation is born when ideas have sex. For Adam Grant, good ideas come from those who fight conformity and groupthink, as he states in his book . As for Greg Horowitt, bestselling author of The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley, he uses the virgin forest as a metaphor for diversity.
Innovation is ignited from the sparks of friction, confronting ideas, and everything else that may look and feel like a conflict, but isn’t. In my humble opinion, these are just different approaches and ways of thinking.
And this is exactly where weirdos come in. They can contribute to the company by bringing a profusion of ideas to the table to spark innovation.
However, all this risky business requires recruiters and managers to down a strong dose of courage. They must dare to hire someone who may, at first, seem weird and deviating from the company norm. We have to scratch beneath the surface to find a common ground.
This is what really matters! Everyone needs to feel part of the company they work for and give meaning to their job and responsibilities. This sense of purpose is what unites all employees. It’s what ties everyone together.
If by any chance a recruiter comes across an atypical profile who shares the company’s outlook, someone that is capable of growing and adding value to their team, then yes, this profile must be favoured over a more traditional candidate. Of course you may not get lucky every single time, but don’t be afraid to take risks. Trust me, it’s worth it!