“I prefer to remain anomalous.” Barbara Kingsolver
After church on Christmas Day, my friend Deidra asked me, “Do you know that there’s a ski resort, Snowshoe, West Virginia, only about 2 1/2 hours from here?
“Why don’t you go skiing this week?”
I loved that idea (and no, I didn’t know there was a ski mountain just a few hours away), but I already had plans for that week. My days were highly scheduled, I told Deidra, probably in my “important voice.”
But then there was a gentle internal nudge. Why don’t you? You haven’t been skiing for a few years. It would be fun to do a day trip with your son. And, while I may have had lots of things to do (mostly work-related), this was the week between Christmas and New Year. It wasn’t that scheduled.
I’m not dissing list-making, scheduling, or planning. I make lists, and I do them. My schedule is usually full. A thorough plan helps me manage a busy life while keeping stress and anxiety under control most of the time.
Those are all good things.
But it’s important for me to acknowledge that one of the highlights of the holiday season was the day I spent doing something I hadn’t originally planned to do—skiing with my son. And it’s not the first time that the unscheduled and unexpected have risen to the top of my life’s experiences.
We like ideas (and people) that fit into our worldview (or view of our week), but there is tremendous value in finding room for those that don’t mesh quite so readily. According to Paul Carlile and Clayton Christensen writing in The Cycles of Theory-Building in Management Research: “When an anomaly is identified, an outcome for which a theory can’t account, an opportunity to improve theory occurs.”
Anomaly is a doorway to growth.
Accomplishing our objectives in life requires us to consider the anomalous, the unexpected, the ideas, people, experiences, and things outside our comfort zone, rather than rejecting them outright. We allow ourselves to be thrown a new S Curve and then another. Sticking to the script all the time means missing out on the great ad-lib moments that can elevate both work and life and add sparkle to our days.
If I hadn’t made room for an idea that didn’t originate with me and didn’t fit within the plan for my week, I wouldn’t have this memory of traveling to a new and beautiful place, spending an entire day talking with my son, skiing for the first time in a few years. A glorious bluebird day, the feeling of my legs, the speed, the whiz, the turns, the thrill of being on a ski slope.
None of that would have happened.
What was something that gave you joy recently? To what extent was that emotion made possible by a willingness to be open to unexpected ideas or people?
For your team, what is an innovation (whether process, product or people) you would like to celebrate? What unexpected idea or person, what anomaly did you entertain that made this innovation possible?
How can you remain anomalous? Throw yourself a new S Curve or two this year.
Our podcast guest is Mbali Maseko, Head of Wellbeing and Employee Experience at Sasol, an energy and chemical company based in South Africa.