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creativity, free thinking, leadership, time management

Follow The Black Sheep

When I moved to Tufnell Park last year, I was using the tube and got off to head to the elevators. I noticed one or two people taking an alternative route and curiosity got the better of me. I followed these people and realised that they were taking the stairs. I was just about to head back around to the elevators when I saw that one person had stopped at the end of the corridor. Why would he stand there if the exit sign was on the other side?

As the doors opened, I realised what he was doing. Instead of following the herd and the sign, being pushed into the elevator and possibly missing it, he had seen a shortcut and taken it. As the elevator emptied, he casually strolled in, took his position at the front seconds before the door opened and the rat racers forced their way in, flustered as ever. As he was the first one in, but had come from the other side, he was the first one out.

Now this may seem insignificant and may only save a few minutes of your life, but to reduce any unnecessary stress in London is an art form. I try to adopt these methods because a). it makes life more exciting b). it feels as if you are rewriting the rules.

When was the last time you saw a black sheep? What were they doing that made you intrigued? When was the last time you challenged yourself and veered away from the herd?

Painting – Black Sheep by Frances Bourne

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About David Lowe

Founder / editor at Origin of Cool (www.originofcool.com) and World Sport Bloopers (http://www.worldsportbloopers.com). Talk to me about building online communities, social media, online advertising and cool stuff. Love ping pong!


7 thoughts on “Follow The Black Sheep

  1. Nice post, and generally a good ethos to follow 🙂 Useful apps like “Last Exit” for the iPhone etc, make it a lot easier to stay ahead of the game also … Seems like it is time to add this kind of know-how into those apps also 🙂

    Posted by Vincent Roman | June 8, 2010, 11:42
  2. Thanks for the comment Vincent. I always thought it would be useful to have an app where you could type in your journey (like tfl.gov.uk) but be told exactly which tube carriage to get on to guarantee the quickest changes and exits at stations. If the app could incorporate shortcuts, more people would want to buy the app. The possible downside could be that everyone would know these shortcuts and it wouldn’t save you anytime due to more human traffic!

    Posted by sneezyhead | June 8, 2010, 12:09
  3. Thank you for writing this post.

    This is a great variation on the usual advice not to follow the crowd. That advice is, to relate to the theme of an earlier post of yours, difficult to execute. We have all heard that: if we follow the crowd, we end up eating a lot of dust; or if we follow the sheep, we end up in the s**t. The difficulty with executing that advice is that, in being advised not to follow the majority, we are not being guided to do anything specific; where do we start? Any unusual action would seem to fit the bill!

    Your approach is much smarter because it gives us something to do. The advice is to look out for and to follow someone else who is already doing something unusual and apparently advantageous. Rather than performing a new action which might be completely worthless and to perform a lot of those in search of an advantage, your approach is to look out for a better approach which is already working. In this way, we increase our range of options and might even discover new combinations along the way.

    As an approach to innovation, your approach is analogous to the “Fast Second” strategy. Rather than attempting to be the first to do anything, the approach is to watch other first movers and to emulate, and then surpass, those who have found advantages. It is the approach of the more effective “early adopter”/”visionary” rather than the ground breaking “innovator”/”enthusiast”.

    Rather than performing actions which are completely new and might, but probably will not, turn out to be advantageous, your approach is to emulate the unusual, but apparently advantageous, behaviour of others so as to identify the advantages for ourselves. Rather than continually trying to initiate new behaviours, your approach is to focus on spreading effective behaviours which are already in use, albeit by a very small minority.

    This then allows us to take the next step of discovering whether we can turn those advantages into benefits in the context in which we and others can apply the newly learned techniques. In this way, some of the new behaviours can, in time, become new norms … and the ball rolls on!

    Thanks again for writing this.

    Posted by John W Lewis | June 28, 2010, 07:32
    • I love your post John. I didn’t even realise I was doing some of the things you observed and it made me think about it in a whole new way! It struck a chord with me as I am currently working on a new business that will be launching this year. The idea is to take an emerging concept but improve it and create something that will become the industry standard (that said, I hate this expression as ‘standard’ infers mediocrity but I will use it for now).

      If you look at the pioneers in oil, tech and aviation, a lot of brilliant people were ruined because they were the first in the world to bring their idea to the masses. It takes time to change the way people think and sometimes they are just not ready for it. This reminds me of a common expression used in music: “A band/artist releasing an album that is “ahead of its time.”

      What you said is certainly true in space exploration. It started with the US-v-Russia moon race and turned into an unremarkable event. That was until Richard Branson and Virgin thought of the simple idea of taking the general public into space and the idea of inhabiting the moon. Now it is becoming a reality and I predict will eventually become the new norm. It takes an individual/team of entrepreneurs to smash through the ceiling and raise the bar.

      I would love to hear about ways you think the IT industry can be changed and any ideas you have.

      Posted by sneezyhead | June 28, 2010, 08:51
      • Thanks for your kind words, David.

        Great, it sounds as though you are already setting out to change the IT industry!

        Your objective of taking an emerging concept and turning it into an industry standard is a worthwhile cause and can be very effective, but often requires a wide range of skills. It sounds as though you are operating in an area which is not as widely recognised as some in being important to innovation.

        In many industries, innovation is usually considered to occur most commonly in two areas: new things for users (at the “top”); or new basic principles (at the “bottom”). However there is also a third common area for innovation at the boundary between the “bottom up” layers and the “top down” silos.

        It may be that you are operating in this area. This can be very fruitful indeed. However, it can be a long road and is historically the preserve of the powerful players in the relevant field who have the most to gain and lose from the choice of standards.

        All the best for your new business; I’m interested to learn more about it.

        Posted by John W Lewis | June 28, 2010, 09:22
        • It’s not so much the IT industry – more of a physical idea. That said, we will be embracing the best of technology and mobile to bring the two worlds together. I’ll let you know when we’ve got something online.

          Posted by sneezyhead | June 28, 2010, 09:37


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