Very few organizations welcome "weird" into their cultures. Some start that way (when there's nothing to lose), but few stay the crazy course. Think about it: has your employer ever encouraged you to be weird? There are few things people fear more than the unpredictable.
We crave predictability because our most basic needs are predictable. We know that we get hungry and need shelter. It makes sense on the surface to calm our crazy and smooth out our weirdness if we want to satisfy those predictable needs. But when was the last time you found a solution to a truly difficult problem while plodding a predictable path?
Worse yet, our predictable notions can lead to irrational actions. They can lead a senior executive to measure employees by the share of revenue they bring to the company rather than the rate of customer satisfaction and return engagement. They can lead a middle manager to spend more time prioritizing their higher-ups's whims than their customers' needs. They can prompt a veteran employee to spend hours studying how best to navigate the org chart rather than developing a creative product.
When seen through the lens of predictable needs, these are perfectly rational behaviors. Revenue and senior manager satisfaction have a natural correlation to compensation. The more money a company makes, the easier it is to pay your employees. If your senior managers like you, it's more likely they'll remember you when they're handing out bonuses. But these behaviors are often at odds with discovering solutions to difficult problems, which can do far more to help the bottom line.
This dynamic is fueled by fear. There are the softer fears of being perceived as weak, slow or stupid. There are the more gut-wrenching fears of being suspended or fired. Then there are the primal fears of being hungry or exposed. These fears leave little room for weird, crazy behaviors. But they must.
The greatest triumphs I've witnessed at the d.school have come when people push through their fear, embrace the weird and place their users' needs before their own. Do the prototypes always work? Of course not. Are some of the ideas downright ridiculous? Yes. But the crazier they are, the more inspiring the feedback and the greater the opportunity for high-value solutions.
The next time you find yourself protecting the predictable at the expense of embracing the weird, pause for a moment. Perhaps the fastest way to satisfy your most predictable personal needs is by embracing the unpredictable in your work.