I think you need to know when to tow the line, and when to allow yourself the freedom to break away from what is expected of you.
In the armed forces, thinking outside the box might get you killed -- you must follow the chain of command in order to work as one. In medicine, doctors are taught "if you hear hoof beats behind you, look for a horse, not a zebra," so they first try to rule out all the obvious reasons for illness before looking for a rare disorder.
In the world where I live -- marketing, media, networking, research -- we're always looking for that special something that will grab attention and make people stop and consider what we're saying. Sometimes, the tried and true ways are not always the best. Sometimes, you really need to get out of your own way, dropping preconceptions in order to succeed.
I've been looking to find a team to join where I can put my own talents in marketing, research and social media to use. Sadly, I meet many who could desperately use someone like me on the team but are unwilling to look outside the box. They put walls up that discourage creativity by hiring a homogeneous work force.
People like me are often praised for accomplishments and creativity, but many employers choose the safe route. They look for candidates who are defined so narrowly by particular industry experience that they miss out on bringing in a fresh perspective to their business. I think one of the reasons I enjoyed consulting so much is that I had the opportunity to work across many teams in several organizations. That bird's eye view combined with hands-on practical application of theory and action is what allows success to happen.
As with any well-worn cliché, it is easier said than done.
Our first instinct is to go for the tried and true solutions to our problems. Who wants to fail by trying something new? But think how much richer the world would be if more of us kept an open mind when mapping out solutions and hiring to enrich our staff. Think of all the times where true breakthroughs shattered conceptions about how things should be. We wouldn't have heart replacement surgery, smartphones, airplanes, desalinated water, gardens grown on rooftops, almond milk... oh the list goes on an on!
Do you look first for passion, ability to learn, apply, lead, network when you look for team members -- or do you default to checking off boxes?
Image via a link to New Yorker cartoons...