Hollywood loves making movies about high school situations. Typically, a high school kid has some major disaster in his home life that forces him to move from the upper-crust private school to a grungy public school. This student ALWAYS wears his former uniform, complete with crested coat and school tie, on his first day at the new school. Of course, this means that the new kid will be ridiculed, pummelled, and gaped at.
The movie unfolds to show how this misfit triumphs socially by introducing new ideas or some new approach to his new classmates. This student must change more than his clothes to meet his new classmates halfway. He must simultaneously convince them to come halfway to his point of view. Everybody gets to change some of their patterns, grow a little, and either better harass or simply astound the school staff. Happy ending for all concerned.
Many different groups have unspoken rules about behavior. How you dress, how your cube or office is decorated, what topics are discussed, how things get done. This can be great for group cohesion, though it can also be very limiting. In the book Group Genius, author Keith Sawyer writes that the best innovations come from groups that have differences. The closer they are in beliefs and behavior, the more likely that there will be less, real creative thinking and possibly more ‘groupthink’ blind spots.
Diversity pays off, in broadening horizons and helping see beyond our typical frame of reference. The kinds of pay-offs comes in many ways: better ideas, better insight, stronger solutions, broader frames of reference, and interesting people to work around. This may mean living with a little friction and irritation.
In the Hollywood movies, everyone has to learn how to meet each other at a middle ground. They are transformed because they are willing to consider other voices, other opinions, different ways of doing things. An oyster creates a pearl because of the irritation created by an outside substance. Don’t dismiss, too quickly, others and their ideas that might be a little irritating and a bit different. It might just be their equivalent first day at a new school and possibly you might get a pearl, of wisdom.