Ever seen the Christmas movie classic, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?
If you’re like me, you’ve seen it dozens of times and you know the song and the plot by heart.
I’ve never given the movie much thought until my mom brought it up the other day. Surprisingly, there’s a nice little piece of business and marketing lesson in this show.
Let’s think about it for a second. Rudolph had this red, shiny nose and the other kids laughed at him for it. He was shunned and disliked for being different.
That is, until Santa saw his value.
And, arguably, Rudolf became the most valuable reindeer because of his ability to guide Santa’s sleigh through the fog.
Rudolph was weird. He stood out. And, at first, he was hated for it. But in the end, Rudolph became the hero for his uniqueness.
The Value of Weirdness in Business
Perhaps this is a silly analogy, but I think there is wisdom in this story.
The tendency for us is to find ways to blend in. Growing up, I wanted nothing more than to be accepted and liked. And, if I were to be honest, I still do.
But, if we want to be truly successful in business and in life, we have to embrace our weirdness and show how that makes us special and valued.
The movie, The Internship, talks about this. In the movie, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson lose their sales jobs and decide to get internships at Google so they can find ways to be relevant in today’s business world.
As 40-somethings, they stick out like a sore thumb amongst the sea of college kids with an ivy-league education.
Yes, they are weird. And, they lacked the skills that many of their fellow interns had. But, the pair possessed something more valuable to Google — they had “Googliness”. In other words, Vaughn and Wilson brought their unique skills and perspective to the table, which added diversity and creativity to the Google team.
Look at Zappos. One of their core values as a company is to “create fun and a little weirdness.” For them, that means doing things that are a little unconventional.
After all, it’s pretty weird that they offer free returns for a whole year. How many companies do that?
Not many. And, it’s what makes Zappos stand out — and ultimately, so successful.
Understanding what makes us different is perhaps one of the most important things we can do in business.
After all, as John Janstch often says, “nobody talks about boring businesses.”
You have to give people a reason to choose you. And, if you look like every other company out there that does what you do, you’re going to have a tough time being successful.
If you want to differentiate your business, one way to do that is to embrace your company’s weirdness.
How to Embrace Your Company’s Weirdness
What does weirdness look like?
There’s not one single answer. And, it will look different for every company.
But, here are some ideas:
- Act on crazy ideas. How you can be bold, daring or even a little wild? Try something new and act on your crazy ideas and see what happens. Some of the world’s greatest innovations occurred because someone decided to act on an idea that might have seemed crazy at first. You never know if something will work until you try it.
- Take a stand. Find something that your company feels incredibly passionate about and take a stand on that issue. Maybe you can find a cause to fight for and donate time and money to it. Or, perhaps you can work to change something wrong about your industry. Standing for something important can change your business and change the world.
- Give something away for free. I’m not talking about cheap pens with your company name on it. Try giving something away of incredible value. Write off an invoice for a client. Randomly give a free service or product to a customer. Hold a contest to give away your services to a non-profit. You get the idea.
- Encourage hobbies.
Help your team develop and pursue their hobbies and passions. Not only will this make your employees happier, but it can also lead to renewed energy in your workplace. You never know how those ideas could translate to something amazing for your company. In fact, the folks at Olgivy & Mather do this — they call it “declaring your minor” and encourage their team to find a passion that they can loosely connect to their work. All of this can help create a company culture worth talking about.
Go Forth & Be Weird
As you plan for 2014, I hope that you will stop trying to blend in. Look for ways to stand out and showcase what makes you unique.
Yes, this might mean that not everyone will like you. And that’s okay.
If you’re willing to embrace your weirdness and showcase who you really are you’ll be more likely to find passionate, raving fans who love what you do.
That’s how you can really build success.
Have you seen any businesses that do a good job of embracing their weirdness?
How can you dare to be different with your business?
Rudolph image credit: Kit Cowan
Poster image credit: seanwes