Tradition and the maverick mind. Tradition, doing things in a certain way because that is how it’s suppose to be. Okay maybe that is not the definition of tradition but it’s how most of us interpret it. If it’s one thing that maverick thinkers are not good at, is doing things because ‘that’s how it always been done’. Can tradition and maverick thinking coexist or do they conflict?
The answer to that question is far from simple, so let’s have a look at the cons and pros of tradition, and what it means for maverick thinkers. If it’s one thing maverick thinkers excel at is bringing about change and the word tradition doesn’t really inspire change now does it?
Tradition usually brings about a resistance to change or it slows it down drastically. There are two sides to this coin of course. Tradition originates because it works and provide an upside to a group of people. This provides a stable foundation to operate from. This foundation is also a pro that enables maverick thinkers to do what they do best. True maverick thinkers aim to understand the traditions within their industry. Maverick thinkers don’t aim to reinvent the wheel but they take the wheel and improve where needed. They look at the ‘why’s’ and work out creative solutions from there.
Some would say that tradition encourages outdated practices and complacency but it’s the interest in these outdated practices that sparks the curiosity within a maverick thinker. It is what causes them to dive into why’s. The knowledge they gain while diving into what drives the outdated practices becomes a source of inspiration. They can experiment knowing that there is a stable foundation to fall back on. Their understanding of the history and even more important the context of the tradition empowers their critical thinking. The new way of thinking or doing things they might come up with is built on analysis of the established ideas. This enables them to effectively communicate with colleagues and stakeholders who may be more attached to traditional ways of thinking.
Tradition is something that can encourage groupthink. Those within the group value the established norms and may even get a sense of identity from those norms. In extreme cases this can hinder maverick. With groupthink also comes a sense of belonging. Knowing and respecting the traditions within the group/community can help maverick thinkers become part of the community, it can give them a sense of belonging within the group. Belonging to the group ensures that the change they bring is out of respect to the norms within the community. Maverick thinkers unintentionally (but sometimes also intentionally) expose outdated power structures and uneven playing fields within the a group or company. This makes being a part of the community even more important. Change that comes from within is more powerful than change due to outside influence.
It is important for maverick thinkers who operate in a traditional environment to take their colleagues with them step by step on the journey of change. It is not the tradition that discourages change but those who find piece of mind in the tradition itself. The key is implementing the change while preserving the peace of mind the tradition brings with it. And sometimes, just sometimes, you may need to uproot the tree and plant a new one.