Celebrate the Difference!

When I attended school, there were two camps of people: The people who did what everyone else did, and the people who did their own thing. Said another way, there were predictable people and interesting people. And the ratio of cool to humdrum was probably about 80 percent hum drum to 20 percent cool.

Interesting to me were people like Brian, a guitarist from age 6, who spent his summers in his basement writing songs and recording them on a Radio Shack cassette tape recorder. Then there was Ashish, librarian to the neighborhood’s largest collection of Hindu comic books. I also remember JK, an operational wizard, who at age 8 planned an entire BMX bike trail and built and maintained it for years, in our backwoods, using a burned-out lawn tractor.

And, yes, it was just that black and white. The “predictable” people ridiculed the “interesting” kids, making them feel inferior. The interesting kids were the outcasts, the strange ones and the ones that were easy to laugh at. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as I suggest; it was just life. We all experienced it to some extent no matter which side of the wall we lived on. But what is very obvious years later is that the kids who were different knew something the others didn’t: Self-expression is the key exploration to seeing things differently.

Years later, who do you remember from your past—those who touched you, the interesting and the inspired? Inspired people are driven, focused and convicted to travel a distinct path. They live to discover something new.

The essence of what makes somebody different is the place where passion, interest and something memorable can occur. For people, for brands and companies, you will never be memorable if you are predictable. You can be helpful, reliable and dependable, but the minute someone who is interesting and different arrives on the block, we’ll all race over to meet that person. People want to be near the interesting kids.

So the next time you are hiring a new team member, looking for differentiation in a brand or product or even hiring an ad agency, ask yourself if the people or the ideas you are working with are predictable. Are they fueled by personality and innovation? If they aren’t, consider bringing in some of the “different” people you know—the Brians, Ashishs or the JKs of the world. Celebrate the difference.

by Mike Tittel
Executive Creative Director – Cincinnati

Follow Mike on Twitter @tittel.

Cross-posted at Ignite Something on the Forbes CMO Network