Tag Archives: dissonance

The Outer Limits of Comfort and the Value of Dissonance

Thinking, Thinking, Thinking...
Thinking, Thinking, Thinking...

Are you ready for a small slice of truth to close out your Thursday evening?  Good.  Me too.

It’s hard to have original ideas when you are surrounded by people who all have the same experiences as you.
Jonathan Harris

And there we have it.  If you are anything like me, you want to be creative and let your mind freely expand to take on new thoughts, ideas and concepts.  Heck, one of my favorite things to do is to find a connection between two seemingly disparate notions.  It can be like a game or puzzle to carefully thread ideas together, to see potential connections which are not readily apparent.  It’s actually quite fun.  I mean, maybe not quite as fun as full-contact mah jongg, but that would also be setting the bar pretty damn high.

But what happens when you seek to expand your thinking when surrounded by people who look like, talk like, sound like and live exactly as you do?  Maybe it’s who you work with every day.  Think about how your department or company probably handles recruiting new members – cultural fit is always a big thing.  Heck, I am HUGE believer that cultural fit may matter more than specific skill sets in many ways.  If someone just doesn’t “get it”, they can possess the intellect of Newton, Spinoza or Descartes and it’s going to be an utter clusterf… umm… it’s going to be super bad.  Yeah, let’s just go with super bad and move right along.

Except how do you come up with something new if everyone is the same?  What causes the deviation from the norm?  The bolt out of the blue?  The zig when everyone zags?  Unless the culture is to seek out the differences (an all-too-rare cultural trait for many groups, I find), there is nothing to inspire the new to be born.  And why would there be?  The group was brought together because of “like-ness” and similarity, not uniqueness and dissonance.

Just a little something for all of us to remember: comfort can be a wonderful thing.  It can bring a greater sense of shared understanding and it’s just a pleasant experience… but ahh… when you need something new, fresh and different?  Comfort does us a disservice.  We match, but we are stale.  We get each other, but don’t stretch each other.

Comfort is not a bad thing and can cause a great deal of harmony.  But when we seek to boldly break into new ground without a map to guide us?  Take on the iconoclast, bear out the awkwardness and let new thoughts come forth.