Hail to the troublemakers.

Picture by Taavi Tihkan

Picture by Taavi Tihkan

We live in uncertain times. That’s a given. But what is more surprising is that in times like these, most companies seem to become cautious and take all bets off the table. It seems counter-intuitive to me. Is this not a time when companies should re-imagine their business models, re-think their strategy and position, and focus on designing more meaningful offerings and experiences? I mean, what are the options? Will doing the things that don’t work, with even less effort and caution, save business? No. Yet many companies try desperately to hold on to the world that got them to where they are today – even if it was 20-30 years ago.

Consider what I witnessed today.

One of our clients, a vice president at a large international company, came into our project meeting today and announced that he had just been fired (after 20+ years with the company…) The company has a stiff culture, especially dangerous for a company that needs innovation. This guy is surely one of the people who had the guts to challenge the prevailing thinking. From my perspective he was just what the company needed, a “troublemaker” in a company in desperate need of a new culture, of new policies, processes, etc. Yet instead of rewarding him, the company (whoever that is) decided to silence him by cutting him off. No questioning of thinking around here… What a crime.

In times like these we need to celebrate the troublemakers, the people who stand up and provoke the prevailing thinking. These are the people, as opposed to the yes-men and yes-women, who drive change within these companies that so desperately need it. They stand up, provoke, question, speak up, break rules etc. Let’s reward the troublemakers and the misfits. Your company needs them.