I originally wrote a version of this post a few years ago but it's a message is worth repeating. Enjoy!
I walked down the street in Toronto’s financial district on my way to a client meeting and when the light turned green an absolute sea of blue suits flooded the street from both directions as though a tide was coming in.
In the middle of this sea of blue was a guy wearing a banana-yellow blazer. I remember he was mid-to-late 50’s, well groomed, sporting hipster-like glasses and he had a genuine bounce in his step that made it seem he was walking on bedsprings.
I can’t tell you anything about the blue suits but I saw the yellow blazer guy – I mean I saw him. Really. Saw. Him.
Of all the suits on the street running to eat lunch at one of the hundreds of restaurants serving the same menu, dining in the same dark brown dining rooms, served by the same staff wearing the same black outfits this guy – the guy in the yellow blazer – was the most interesting, most refreshing and most remarkable person in the crowd.
Back in the day when I worked in a corporate office I sat through years of board meetings where everyone pandered to wear the “blue suit”.
Agree with everyone on your team and you wear the bluest blue suit, if you have a slightly different idea you wear the blue suit but if you disagree or have an original thought? Well…you’re sporting a bright yellow blazer, my friend.
There's a Catch-22 built into teamwork.
Teams get the best results with people who have diverse backgrounds, skills and experience but people with diverse backgrounds, skills and experience struggle to work together as a team.
The challenge team members face is recognizing their personal differences are actually their greatest strengths. What makes their team uniquely qualified to outperform their competition is the fact that they have a uniquely qualified team. So, why would anyone ever want to quash that?
When a "yellow blazer" walks into the room, it's a gift. Pressuring that person into wearing a "blue suit" simply quashes their ability to be creative, challenge the status quo, and take risks.
That's how the race to the middle begins.
The middle is safe, comfortable, peaceful and familiar. It's also average, ordinary, passive and forgettable.
We admire the teams of yellow blazers; those who break away from the pack and do things differently. They're the trailblazers, innovators and heroes.
Each of us has a hero inside who secretly wishes we could (even for just one day) wear the yellow blazer to work.
When will you wear yours?