“Anyone have any questions?” His head swiveled around the room. He had very open and honest eyes. The kind of eyes that could see into your heart, if you weren’t careful. Everybody was decidedly careful. It wasn’t that they didn’t have opinions. It was that they didn’t have opinions they wanted to share. Everybody smiled. These weren’t necessarily smiles of approval. These were the smiles of heavyweight fighters that survived twelve losing rounds. These were the smile of children, who secretly feed asparagus to the dog. These were the smiles you give waitress, after she spills your drinks.
There is a very inspiring Dr. Pepper commercial that touts the slogan “1/1”. The commercial shows glimpses of millennials doing new and different things. They are engaged in activities that are unconventional. They are doing things that don’t necessarily fit the stereotype. What is so inspiring about the commercial is the idea that we are all unique. One in a million is not so special in a world of billions. But one of one, now that’s special.
What struck me about this brilliant commercial is the message. The Dr. Pepper commercial isn’t creating a new social concept. They are merely reflecting where our society is. Being one of one is thought to be better than being one of many. One of many implies conformity. One of one implies uniqueness. The message is liberating and clear. Individuals no longer have to find a way to fit society. Society has to find a way to fit the individual. Martin Luther King would be proud!
Unfortunately, not everyone got the memo. For most groups, companies, corporations and teams, the message flew right over their inflated heads. Most of corporate America is trying to fit a square peg into a not so square hole. They are building “one of many” organizations with “one of one” individuals. It’s not purposeful or malicious, they just don’t get it. If kids grow up believing that they are one of one, why are we creating companies that depreciate individuality? Our schools are constructed primarily for the large part of the bell curve, not for the one of one.
If Copernicus just smiled and nodded, the sun would miraculously still orbit the earth. If Steve jobs didn’t speak up, you wouldn’t be reading this on your smartphone. If what we should think is always different than what we are thinking, then our ability to innovate is lost. Our companies’ ability to innovate will be squandered. Our society’s ability to innovate will be weakened.
If promotions hinge on compliance, if grades depend on conformity, if employers require acquiescence, we will not succeed. Thinking right does not mean thinking alike. The people and companies and teams and employees that are able to capture the minds of the “one of ones” will help to create a bold new world where the sun doesn’t revolve around the earth.