There is a low intensity battle going on right now in the marketplace, and the main contenders are the suits vs. hoodies. For the uninitiated, the suits refer to those who are associated with “top-down approaches,” “change management,” “metadata,” and “standardization,” in essence the corporate world. The “hoodies” are those who are associated with terms such as “disruptive,” “agile,” “innovation,” “unstructured,” “bottom-up” and so on. Naturally these two groups have conflicting principles and distinct “cultures.”
Innovation Perception: Hoodie vs. Suits
As a suits entrepreneur currently working in the technology/start-up ecosystem, I had my fair share of assumptions and biases concerning the startup (hoodies) culture, namely, the whole Laissez-faire attitude to work and play.We as a society have been fed a steady diet of the stereotypical start-up entrepreneur look of black/navy blue hoodie, jeans and white sock with Adidas sandals, intentionally cultivated to be the antithesis of the button-down, rigid, groupthink structure of the corporate world. From the beginning, this non-conformist attitude in the start-up world has been praised for its originality, independence of thought, and the celebration of the self versus the group (corporate). But how much of this is true?
Man – The Social Animal:
Humans are social beings, we crave and strive for belonging, and this sense of belonging/collective consciousness has been the bedrock of societal development. Moreover, any individuals and/or entities that have resisted to conform to societal norms were often ostracized and/or banished. Consequently, what we find in both the suits and hoodies culture is the pressure to conform. The negative consequences of forced conformism include the lost of individuality, originality and the rise of groupthink. So, how can we mitigate the negative aspects of conformism and yet strive to create an environment conducive to innovation?
- Embrace the culture you find yourself in (i.e. hoodies in corporate world or suits in start-up world).
- Don’t be afraid to express your ideas, even if it runs against the grain, this is one way of fighting against groupthink and fostering cross-pollination of ideas.
- Keep learning and seeking knowledge
- Remember that you bring unique experiences and insights, you should capitalize on these assets to create value for your clients and educate your colleagues
- Maintain your originality and independence of thought
- … and most importantly, have fun!