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Why Every Office Needs an Outsider 81

Research has shown that having an oddball team member not only gives you someone to make fun of, but also leads to better decision making. Researcher Katie Liljenquist, says having "socially distinct newcomers" on a team can help it perform at a higher level. Team tension is crucial, and shaking up the same old crowd is the way to create it. "You can imagine if you work in an office and you've got this outsider like Dwight Schrute who walks in and a lot of his ideas resonate with you. Your fellow in-group members are hearing this and thinking, 'Wait, you agree with Dwight?' That can be really uncomfortable and socially threatening," she says.


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Why Every Office Needs an Outsider

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  • by Quantos ( 1327889 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:51PM (#27494503)
    To have another scapegoat that you can blame stuff on too :)
  • by hansamurai ( 907719 ) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:54PM (#27494535) Homepage Journal

    And there's more than enough of them!

  • me? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by purpleque ( 948533 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:56PM (#27494567)
    If you keep looking for the outsider and can't find one...it might be you.
  • Terrible camera work (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ChronosWS ( 706209 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:56PM (#27494571)

    Whoever was shooting that video, please... put down the camera and walk away. You clearly don't know what you are doing, and it sickens us to watch you. Either that or take your anti-spasmodics. I don't know how you managed to do it, but the most interesting bits - the stopping and starting - you managed to effectively miss. Did you even know what your subject was or why it would be interesting? Apparently not. Go home, please.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by KanSer ( 558891 )

      No kidding. One can jury rig a steady-cam (Stick + Counterweight = steady-cam) for like $15.00. Even if you only shoot video casually for shits and giggles you should have one. If you intend to publish it to a real audience then for god's sake make one.

      Or spend $850 on a Merlin and honestly get your money's worth on the first shoot if you're a "professional".

  • Dwight Schrute (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:59PM (#27494609)

    "You can imagine if you work in an office and you've got this outsider like Dwight Schrute who walks in and a lot of his ideas resonate with you. Your fellow in-group members are hearing this and thinking, 'Wait, you agree with Dwight?' That can be really uncomfortable and socially threatening."

    Socially threatening because Dwight Schrute is a sociopathic cat killer who delights in blocking fire exits and pulling the alarm. A better choice could have been chosen. Michael, for instance.

  • False. (Score:4, Funny)

    by D Ninja ( 825055 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @04:01PM (#27494665)

    Alright! Who put my stapler in the Jello again!

  • by cryfreedomlove ( 929828 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @04:02PM (#27494695)
    I agree that outsiders can shake an organization out of inbred complacency. However, Dwight Schrute is an anti-social asshole. The most effective outsiders don't need to be an asshole to have the positive effect this article is calling for.
    • by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @04:14PM (#27494869) Homepage

      While I also agree that Dwight is a poor example, sometimes the outsider does have to be an asshole.

      The only way I've found to break through an echo chamber is by being enough of a jerk that everyone gets jolted out of their little world for a while.

    • by fructose ( 948996 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @04:31PM (#27495139) Homepage

      Exactly. The perfect outsider is the one who is socially acceptable, technically competent, but isn't scared to ask 'Why are we doing this?' When you have a group of people that think the same, always agree, and don't deviate from the norm, you won't grow. If you have one person that frequently asks why or enjoys being the devil's advocate, then you get get change. Without change, you can never grow from where you are.

      Of course, some people are just asses. And those people need to be, uh, wiped off the books.

      So to speak.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Who the heck is Dwight Schurte and why does everyone here seem to know him? Do you all work at the same company?
  • GM, Chrysler, AIG (Score:3, Insightful)

    by daveywest ( 937112 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @04:39PM (#27495289)
    I bet all these companies really appreciate the input from the new guy, Barrack.
  • This has been evident in sports teams for ages. Great teams grow complaisant, new talent is brought in. It can be in the form of players, coaching staff, or upper management (GM) !news
  • by plopez ( 54068 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @05:07PM (#27495733) Journal

    I can tell you it's hell.

    Until you quit and then you get that "I've been released from prison" feeling.

    It's especially nice when 6 to 12 months later you hear that your boss got fired due to all the problems you tried to warn him about destroying the project and or his general incompetence.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by KlomDark ( 6370 )

      Woohoo! No shit! I thought I LOVED my last job. Got laid off (aka canned) basically for "not conforming." Was devastated, really didn't see it coming. Spent three months out of work, which was terrifying in this economy. Even though I'm usually pretty confident in my abilities, this time it really shook my confidence.

      But... Got a job in January (Of all months!! It's tough to get a job in January in a GOOD economy!) with a very well known company, and although I dropped "in title", my actual work responsibil

  • aka Diversity (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Actually TFA is too narrow. The real key is avoiding a hegemony. From the Stanford Business School:

    In fact, the worst kind of group for an organization that wants to be innovative and creative is one in which everyone is alike and gets along too well," she says. And the key to making nearly any kind of diversity work is managing it well.


  • Someone has been reading really old science fiction. May be just old rerun of the movie.
  • ...until you have read The Outsider [wikipedia.org].

  • My Boss is the outsider. See, the rest of us are the misfits. It gets quite amusing when he suggests some new 'protocol' and we all leap in to denounce it. He gets this strange glazed-eye look. He works from home quite a bit.

  • This is why you build teams from people with distinctly different personalities. In the UK sometimes Belbin Profiles [wikipedia.org] are used to ensure a mix of people that creates a group dynamic (i.e. tension as opposed to complacency). An "outsider" might perform the role of a Plant, Monitor Evaluator or Resource Investigator because of their slightly detached status. Plants can be exceptionally useful as they will provide new ideas which can be looked into, they key thing is that a good Plant is unorthodox and usually
  • The book Sway has an interesting article on this subject. In it, comparisons are drawn from the supreme court, flight crews on airplanes and the character Cameron in the movie Ferris Buelers Day Off. In all situations youâ(TM)ll find a âblockerâ(TM) or someone in the group that makes up an excuse to why something canâ(TM)t be done. The fact that someone has a dissenting opinion is insignificant. Whatâ(TM)s important is that _someone_ have a dissenting opinion. This causes the d

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.