Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Willingness to Stand Out

I was reminded of the need to be different today when I ran across a blog identifying factors that go into determining whether an employee is a superstar.
The need to be different in order to be the best was mentioned by me in a prior post.
Let’s contrast this with the stereotypical view of a finance and treasury person: boring, analytical, and conservative. The stereotype makes a lot of sense; no business owner wants someone who handles every dollar that goes in and out of the company to be some rebellious radical who will likely bring the whole enterprise down due to their wild nature!
Let’s contrast this with the Vision we laid out earlier: “to inspire confidence…” Miscreants and misfits do not inspire a lot of confidence in most folks.
Being similar and not too different is what Cialdini would call “social proof”. People who are like us we trust. People who follow the crowd are not dangerous, because everybody else is doing the same thing, so it must be the correct thing to do. The term conservative in some contexts means “not too different than anybody else”.
The riddle then of a treasury and finance group who aspires to be top-tier is: how do we act in ways that are different and better so that we are perceived as being different while simultaneously being perceived as doing what everyone else is or not “going off the reservation”?

This has the feeling of one of those Zen type situations – “what is the sound of one hand clapping?” – we must comprehend the incomprehensible.
Be different but don’t be different.
Don’t be different but be different.
Stay tuned...

I would love to hear your thoughts about this view of the willingness to be different or your stories on this topic if you have them.
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  1. This HBR blogger appears to agree with the above -