Years ago, an incredibly creative friend of mine had graduated from college and was looking for a job. But he was an out of the box thinker who dressed differently, wasn’t crazy about rules, and liked to work late at night. As a result, he struggled a bit trying to find anyone who would hire him.
At the same time, a major nonprofit in the same city was installing a huge outdoor video screen to promote the organization to people walking by their building. The problem was, they had no idea what to actually put on the screen, so they hired my creative friend to create some interesting graphics, and maybe even videos.
It was a nonprofit with mostly older employees who weren’t crazy about this young, odd, creative person.
But they were desperate, so they were willing to give him a shot.
He started creating some animated graphics for the outdoor screen and the public loved it. So he started doing short videos that were designed to not only highlight the work of the nonprofit, but inspire people. In fact, he timed exactly how long it took a typical passerby to walk by the building. Then he engaged a team of young filmmakers to produce short videos that matched that length.
It started drawing crowds and the nonprofit’s donors thought it was a brilliant project.
But there was internal friction. The young producer started getting attention and suddenly other employees started pushing back against him once again – and this time it included his boss.
A short time later the young producer asked if he could form a media department with him as the manager. He presented the idea to his boss, who set up a meeting with the Human Resources director.
But it was an ambush.
The Human Resources director read him the riot act. In spite of how successful he had been with the video screen project, she berated him for the way he dressed, his working habits, and his “independent” attitude. She told him on no uncertain terms that he was a “misfit” and if he couldn’t abide by company policies, he would be terminated.
And by the way, he could forget about starting and leading a media department.
My friend resigned the next morning.
With no one else on staff to create new content, the video project that was making such an impact languished, and eventually they just put a static ministry logo on it.
That creative “misfit” could have transformed that nonprofit, but because they were so stuck in the old ways of doing things, comfortable with being average, and refusal to let anyone else take credit, they slammed that door shut.
You never know where the next great idea will come from, so value the people who generate them, whether they appear to fit in or not.
Don’t force everyone into the same box, because people aren’t identical.
Neither are their gifts.