How many times have you heard a teammate say something that was exactly what you were just about to say? You pat yourself on the back and think “hey, I was going to say that.” Often in these situations, we use that old adage “Great minds think alike.”
That’s exactly what happened to me while on vacation this summer. My husband and I came out with the same statement at almost the same time. I chimed in with the great minds platitude–pretty much reflexively.
But what happened next was what got me all excited. Our seven year old daughter, Mac, stopped us dead in our tracks with the line “no, great minds think differently!”
I don’t know where she got it. I can only hope that she somehow arrived at this conclusion on her own because I know she had never heard it from either her father or me. Somehow this amazing little person has already figured out that being the same as everyone else is not a path to greatness.
I watch team members exert huge effort to make sure they fit in, to say things ever so carefully to make sure they are accepted, and to behave in ways that make them feel part of the in-group. Even if you are self-confident and willing to go against the fray socially, your organization probably clobbers you with the alignment message to the point that you worry about being in anything short of lock step.
Fight it. Fight it if it comes from a need to fit in. Fight it if it comes from a false imposition of alignment. Sameness is redundancy. Sameness is mediocrity. Diversity is greatness.
The next time you catch yourself thinking about or saying something that’s the same as a teammate, ask yourself how you arrived at the same point. If both of you are looking from the same view, what perspective are you missing? How can you bring that alternative perspective to the table? How can your great minds think differently?
Because as my husband reminded me, the second half of “great minds think alike” is “and fools seldom differ.”