Why being Weird is your most powerful Creative Trait.

Weird = Powerful 

If you have ever been put into that 'weird' box by neighbours, school friends, family and/or colleagues, you will relate to this post. In a world full of repetition and more of the same I believe this 'weirdness' is a skill and innate trait that you should celebrate and embrace.

When we think about being weird we associate it with being 'a spacer', someone who is 'away with the fairies' or not being 'with it'. This has been used in a derogatory way for many years, but thankfully this is now changing. Not only from a Creative person's angle but innovative large corporations are now adapting the power of Weird into their business culture and recruitment strategies.

Creating a culture of weirdness

Here are 2 examples:

  • At online retailer Zappos every job interview famously includes the question “On a scale from 1 to 10, how weird are you?”
  • At San Fransisco-based Method, employees are given homework assignments asking “How would you keep Method weird?”

Let us look at some other of those innovative companies and how they have built their brands on the onus of Weirdness. 

Who would have thought the world’s largest accommodations company would own no properties? Or that the most popular transportation option would own no vehicles and employ no drivers?

Hindsight may be 20/20, but I guarantee if I had pitched these ideas years ago you would’ve sized me up for a straight jacket. 

Whether you’re building a business, writing a blog or creating a product, the safe status quo is an innovation killer. That’s why it’s so important to keep things ‘weird’ when you are working.

‘Weird’ is seeing things differently. Creatives have a natural capability to see things from a different angle. I sometimes think that everyone thinks the way I do, and so I suffer the self-critic syndrome of not being so 'Innovative' or 'Creative'. 

When you surround yourself with Creative people this feeling can be amplified. It is when you take yourself away from this environment and catapult yourself into that 'non-creative' group where there is no talk of ' imagine if ' or ' wouldn't it be cool if we could make..' then you realise your natural thought process is so very different.





Why weird works.

It is common knowledge in the world of Psychology that when we are exposed to something out of the ordinary we are more likely to remember this event. 

The science behind why this happens is a bit longwinded but boils down to this:

* ‘Weird’ experiences cause a release of dopamine (a neurotransmitter related to motivation) in the part of our brain responsible for processing, discovering and storing new sensory impressions. 

That hit of dopamine not only makes us more motivated to explore, but new studies have shown it also creates a stronger connection to long-term memory *

Weird ideas and elements not only stick with us, but we give them more cultural value than those that just confirm what we already know and accept.

Does this mean that you need to go out of your way to go against all social norms to be recognised?


Not really. After all, certain ideas and theories are common for a reason.


Our brains take in such a huge amount of sensory information every day, which is why we’ve developed filters to help us judge new information and pick out what’s important.

So, whether you’re looking for inspiration or just trying to get a leg up on your competition, here are a few ways to cultivate your own culture of weirdness:


1. Nurture your Inner Weirdo.

The people that study our brains and behaviour have identified that the idea of cognitive disinhibition is directly linked with innovative creativity.


Cognitive whatCognitive disinhibition is the failure to ignore information that is irrelevant to current goals. 


Let weird information in by practicing:

  • Daydreaming,
  • Letting your mind wander, or
  • Taking a walk.

However you do it, the idea here is to get into a place where those filters become relaxed and new ideas form.

2. Zone in on The Madonna effect.

In the 1930s, German psychologist Hedwig von Restorff discovered that we remember things that stand out more easily.

Take this list of words for example:

  • Apple,
  • Car,
  • Tomato,
  • Dog,
  • Rock,
  • Banana,
  • Pencil,
  • Madonna,
  • Helicopter,
  • Cat,
  • Cheese.

Which do you remember? I bet it wasn’t tomato.

In the context of the list, Madonna stands out like a papa preaching right! Madonna is atypical within the context of the list. The weird and strange are much more memorable when they exist in the context of the familiar.

Too much ‘out there’ at once, and your unique ideas get lost in a wash of weirdness. But find that balance between the familiar and the controversial and people will start to take notice.


3. Give your inner critic a kick.

Self-censorship, is a major barrier on the road to creating unique and memorable work.

Instead of diving into an exciting idea we change how we think to be more in line with what’s ‘normal’ by asking:

Will people laugh at my ideas?

Will my audience be upset if I say this?

Deferring to self-censorship means denying the world of who you truly are. Embracing your individual idiosyncrasies can go a long way in boosting your creative output.

Whenever you find yourself pulling punches, ask why? And then do the opposite of what you’ve been doing.


4. Build a bridge between dots.

When asked about coming up with innovative ideas Apple founder Steve Jobs simply said:  ‘Creativity is just connecting things’.

Truly innovative and creative ideas come from divergent thinking—connecting the dots where others haven’t. The more strange and wonderful thoughts you let into your head, the more varied source material you have to pull from.


5. Punish inactivity. Reward failure & achievement equally.

Creating your best work possible means embracing strange ideas. Especially those that go counter to what is common.

Those who push boundaries, who create work that we engage with and acknowledge, fail more than succeed. More than just keeping the score of failure - keep the score on the effort of trying.

Embracing your own quirkiness means putting out work constantly and testing the waters to see what works and what doesn’t.

Now go forth, come out of your Weird Closet and celebrate your inspirational skill.


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