The Importance of Outliers

Charlotte Hinkle, adjunct CReST Fellow 2013-2014, discusses the value of outliers to our society. 

What would this world be like without outliers who innovate, revolutionize our society, or change the way that business is conducted? Hopefully we will never have to find out. The benefits of outliers to our society are immeasurable; without them we would still be hunter gatherers, if our species had survived. In the dark ages outliers were hunted down and killed or shunned because of their ideas. Who knows how advanced we would be today if those outliers had been embraced. Some outliers will seek to harm us but there will always be those that do. One bad apple should not spoil the whole bunch. We should support outliers and enact policies to help them succeed and give them the resources necessary to help their ideas catch fire. If we do, business, culture, and society will reap the benefits. Outliers have made us into the people that we are today.

Outliers are extremely important to the success of our community, country, and planet. They are the spice of life. Without outliers yes, society might “survive” for a little while but it would not thrive, and in the end it would fail, whether it took 30 or 300 years, because there would be no revolutionary ideas to push us forward. During the dark ages when outliers were routinely persecuted, society fell backwards and knowledge was lost. We cannot afford to let that happen again. Without outliers there would not be any electricity, voting rights, or even our democratic form of government. Outliers keep us safe, fed, and prosperous by dreaming up solutions to the problems of today and tomorrow. They help to protect and secure our future.

Our long time embrace of outliers’ ideas and innovations has been a key factor to our success. Andrew Carnegie, and Bill Gates certainly are not average people, neither were Abraham Lincoln or FDR. Rather, these are people who have the ability to think outside the box, develop ideas, and have the passion and grit necessary to achieve their goals. While outliers have always had to work hard, their accomplishments are celebrated. We remember true outliers be they social revolutionaries, artists, or business tycoons long after their deaths and look for ways to build upon their legacies. We may not always like or agree with what outliers have said or done, but their actions push us forward in immeasurable ways. Societies that do not embrace outliers and the innovations they bring are doomed to fail, just like the kingdoms of the dark ages.

There will always be outliers that seek to harm us, our society, and our way of life but such individuals are few and far between. There will always be people like Hitler and Stalin. From these outliers our society will grow and become stronger by learning what behaviors to watch for and how to prevent future tragedies. Will bad things happen to us in the future? Yes. Will outliers be responsible for some of these events? Yes. However, this does not mean that all should be punished for the actions of a few.

While outliers will always face struggles and must have grit and perseverance, we as a society should help them to succeed. We need policies that will help those with revolutionary ideas in business or other aspects of our society to have access to the resources necessary to bring their ideas to fruition. Whether these resources are monetary or otherwise, support of outliers is crucial to our success. Not all outliers will have ideas that pan out, but if even one in five does, they will move society forward to the benefit of all. Outliers are essential for our future.

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