She looked at him sternly. He squinted, looked down and played with the tag on his collar. Yes, he wore his shirt backwards again. A few of his friends, if you can call them that, giggled. It was clear from the way she looked at him that she was frustrated. It was clear from the way he looked at her that he was frustrated. It was always a battle. He knew what he should do, but couldn’t bring himself to do it. She was tired of asking him to follow the rules and he was tired of trying to follow them.
It was an awkward and unproductive stalemate. But, it isn’t all that rare. This kind of standoff is fairly typical in our schools. We believe our children require structure. Simply, they should follow the rules. They should do as they’re told. After all, they are children. Just like our schools, society is rife with rules. To be an effective and productive member of society, it is necessary to follow them. Rules create structure. They give us a foundation to build from. Without them, we would plummet into unruly chaos. Or would we?
Think about most of the innovations over the past century. Our society has improved exponentially, because of the ability of a few individuals to think differently. Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods were successful because of their ability to think differently.
They were non-standard. They were unorthodox. They didn’t always follow the “rules”. Even though innovation has changed the world, we still try to restrict it. Follow the rules, do what you’re told and you will be the perfect student, employee or citizen. Our schools, our companies and our society promote this robotic compliance. We evaluate each other based on how close we are to the predetermined standard.
When have you seen a report card with a grade for innovation? When was the last time your boss gave you a raise for creativity? How do you create a standard for what is non-standard? If we continue to reward the norm, we will continue to promote what is normal. If we encourage what is standard, we will continue to generate results that are standard.
Don’t let your leaders, your teachers, your bosses or anybody else box you in. Think differently and always challenge the norm. Always challenge what is standard. If you can’t match the standard, go ahead and create a new one!