Strangeness Closes the Distance Between People


"The complexity of the problems we face is growing bigger and bigger. And our ability to solve problems is changing… We have 40 watts of energy to work with and what we really respond to is that difference in that other person… We can be selectively strange to other people… Let's reach out to the strange… When we are together, creativity goes up."

[Mike Wagner]


Here's the video of a recent TEDxDesMoines with Mike. Up top, he asks three questions:

  • How many of you would you self-identify as strange?
  • How many of you would identify someone else as strange?
  • How many of you think that should people really knew us, the secret us, would put us in the strange category?

The TSA story is quite powerful.

Brain research says it — taken alone, every one of us is a dim bulb. We each have about 40 watts of energy to work with in terms of brain power. Energy consumption and where we're going to spend our time and attention is always an issue for our brain.

I laughed out loud when he talked about 3M ticking people off by moving them on different teams where they knew nobody every so many years.

I'm familiar with that brand of strange. In middle school, we were graded on group work. Our contribution was weighed in the context of how we collaborated in conceptualizing, researching, writing, and presenting projects to the class.

It ticked me off because my perception was that the teacher didn't like me as she regularly put me in a group with peers who needed extra help. What I didn't understand back then and realized later in life, is that she did so because she could count on my strangeness.

I'm so grateful it happened. I would probably not be where I am today had I not learned to embrace strange, as Mike put it. The teacher put me in that context, she didn't make me do it (nobody makes you do anything you don't want to).

Go forth, experiment with your strangeness, what makes you different, close that distance with others, and get creative.

What are you full of today?


[hat tip Gavin Heaton]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a speaking engagement click here.

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