What does it mean by being different? Who wants to be different? Why do we want to be different? When should the difference surface? How can we be different? This are some common questions that people asked when faced with differences.

Before we look into the individual questions, let us understand what is different. For most of us, different will mean that improvement is made to the current process and a better result is achieved. To some, different will mean a total change to the process, by means of replacement or extermination. For the first explanation of different, it is largely linked to modifications and fine tuning of processes than change. While the other explanation will lead to change. As we all know, human beings are wired to resist change hence the acceptance of change to be different will be rare. This will mean that when we are faced with changes and we tend to insist that things to be done the usual way but achieving a totally different outcome / result. In this context, we will refer to the second explanation of Change to form the impetus of being different.

What does it mean by being different?
There are many adjectives that are constantly connected to people who are driven to be different. Some examples of these adjectives are mad, crazy, immature, inexperience, stupid, lunatic, etc. Most or if not all these adjectives do not form a motivation for people to want to be different. How many times do you walk down Orchard Road or hanging around Bugis Junction that you see someone full of tattoo or in some fanciful attire? Inevitably all the eyes and attention will turn to them and remarks as mentioned above will be heard.

Facing criticisms from other people is only one of the factors of being different. Constantly challenged by people around to conform to norms will be a very demoralizing process. Over glorified by those glory chasers will indirectly inflate a person’s ego and in turn lead a person to becoming too complacent and subsequently losing one’s desire to change as the risk of changing has a higher perceived price to pay now. Self management will be a crucial discipline that a person has to possess as being different will win you some victories and will result in the person losing more in the end as he / she will slowly and inevitably lose sight of the original purpose of wanting to be different.

Who wants to be different?

  • Individuals with desire to be different and be different.
  • Individuals who are drained by the daily routines.
  • Individuals who want to make a difference.
  • Individuals who are encouraged to be different.
  • Individuals who are faced with life changing events.
  • Teams who want to achieve greater results.
  • Teams who have the culture of constantly reinventing themselves.
  • Teams who are affected by environmental pressure.

The list goes one with more reasons and motivations but fundamentally, the person / team must WANT to be it.

Why do we want to be different?
To answer this, we will need to look at what motivates a person to want to be different. We will look into 2 areas to seek the answer. Firstly, let’s look at physical / external. For example, we do the expectation setting before the slides presentation. That is a norm and template. Effectiveness of it is dependant on the how the mood is set by the Facilitator and of course the background of the participants. Some times, we will be hit with response like “to end on time”, “good food”, etc. Doing it differently, we will change the sequence of activity by presenting the slides and explaining rationale of Experiential Learning, it will set the mood of the participants to set a more helpful expectation towards the outcome of the programme. So what does it take to be different? In this case, it will be largely driven by external factors and from past experience.

The next area that we will need to look into is internally. As mentioned earlier, those are motivated by external factor to bend but there are others who want to bend in order to make things better for themselves and others. These people are constantly looking into processes to see the shortfall and ineffectiveness and thinking of how to improve by doing something different. They are driven by personal desire to do better and be different and for some; it is purely to break the monotone of daily activities.

At the end of the day, being different comes with risk, such as social rejections. On the other hand, it also creates opportunity for one to start a revolution altogether. Remember there was a period in time when Bubble Tea hit the Lion City like a hurricane? What is so special about iced tea with jelly inside? The interesting thing is that within 6 months, the whole storm died down and that was when others start to recognize the business opportunity and entered the business but the trendsetter actually pulled out of it at the same time.

When should the difference surface?
Doing the right thing at the right time definitely put you in a favourable spot. On the other hand, doing the wrong time at the right time will land you in trouble. So what happens if you do the right thing at the timing of it was inappropriate? For example, it is not wrong for a mother to feed her baby with milk but doing that in the MRT or other public transport might lead the mother into dire consequence. We can succeed but if the success comes after the timeline, that is a failure. So timeliness will be crucial for it to take effect and create an impact. Would you want to wait for the situation to turn downwards before we decide to do something about it or should we actively anticipating the situation? Having said that, we also understand that in order to anticipate, it will require a lot of information from different sources, having enough field time in a given situation and with all these, we will need to make some sound assumptions in order to anticipate what is going to happen next. A perfect timing will be one that has the CHANGE implemented just before the situation is to change.

How can we be different?
There is a Chinese saying that to make a journey of a thousand miles, it starts by taking the first step. This is a process that can be easily achieved by some but very difficult to most of the people. To be different is a process of breaking the norm and becoming a trendsetter. The focus in the earlier statement is on the word “Breaking”, as you will really need to break the commonly accepted facts and even one’s common sense and create a totally new perspective. Hence, wanting to do it and really doing it will be critical factors to being different.

Courage! The courage to challenge what is accepted as a socially accepted behaviour / act and status quo. People generally are fast to discover what is different and are very sensitive to notice what is not socially accepted. The courage to take on the criticisms, doing what one believes in, dare to challenge the status quo, these are all easier said than done but nevertheless, there will be people who are willing to challenge the boundaries.

Some times when we are doing a mundane thing, we can still take a different approach in completing it by really looking into the process and after awhile, one will be able to identify areas that improvements can be made. The attitude of wanting and searching will bring about a consistently changing and improving environment and this will also make a mundane job more rewarding.
In conclusion, one who wants to be different has to choose to want to be different and take action to be different even when faced with common daily issues.

Just for thoughts: Is a creative person different or a person who is different creative?