Want Engagement: Be a Misfit

Talk to an American Indian employee, a colleague with a disability, a person of two or more races or a Millennial and you will hear a common theme. They are some of the most disengaged employees in the federal government. The federal government has given up on these important constituencies so they have no alternative but to take matters into their own hands.

They would be wise to read the book by Alexa Clay and Kyra Maya Phillips entitled, “The Misfit Economy: Lessons in Creativity From Pirates, Hackers, Gangsters and Other Informal Entrepreneurs.”

According to Clay and Phillips, these disengaged groups need to start thinking like outlaws, renegades and pirates. They need to acquire a misfit mindset as disruptive insiders who operate within a system or an organization.

Who are the misfits? They sidestep rules, drive their managers bonkers, rarely ask for permission, and operate outside the confines of the status quo. They push the envelope, ask questions, challenge tradition, and have an entrepreneurial spirit of continued improvement.

Clay and Phillips claim to be a good misfit you must perfect the following 5 skills:

Unlike the traditional understanding of hustle as moving quickly, hustling to the misfit means making due with the limited resources at hand. Looking around the chaos that surrounds you and realizing what your imperfect options are. Clay and Phillips indicated that prisoners are experts at hustling as their incarceration forces them to be more perceptive to their challenging surroundings.

The reasons hackers are so successful (Just ask OPM or Ashley Madison) is that they understand the systems they are hacking better than the people who are operating the systems. You cannot rush a hack. It takes time and patience to understand the system they are trying to break into and a maniacal appreciation of how the pieces of the system relate to each other.

Misfits have intense imaginations. They are constantly looking for the alternative reality. Creativity is their fuel. They see a better tomorrow despite the desperation of today. Clay and Phillips say that advancement in space exploration would have never happened if misfit science fiction writers had not push the limits of our curiosity about what lies beyond the stars.

Pivoting is about making the internal adjustments you need to change your current conditions. It requires the skills to be silent and still to get clarity about what needs to be done. Clay and Phillips say startup companies are great at pivoting as they challenge traditional markets with products that change consumer focus.

Instead of getting bogged down in the pressure to come up with something completely new, misfits have that ability to tweak someone else’s material and apply it to their unique situation. They build on other examples of creativity and innovation.

American Indians, Persons with Disabilities, Multi-Racial People and Millennials let’s start thinking like a pirates, hackers, gangsters or outlaws. This road less taken may be our only path to engagement.

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