Thinking like a “new guy”

While reading my Twitter stream this week I saw something that made me think:

“The good thing about being the new guy is that you can express your honest opinion. The new guy has an untrained mind that has not been polluted by the politics and the language used in the work environment.”

Isn’t that the absolute truth? The new guy is the idealist, the dreamer, the one who doesn’t know anything about “how things are done around here”. He is also the only person who can look at a situation critically and provide an honest point of view, the only one who can look at things from a fresh perspective and possibly one of the few who can tackle difficult problems everyone else has been trying to solve for ages.

Walk around your office and talk to people. Noticed how much the environment dictates decisions. “It has always been done that way”, “that won’t work”, “we have tried that before”, “we don’t have time for this” and the new guy slowly starts thinking just like everyone else.  I once heard from a colleague that he remembered when I had first joined the company: “You had great ideas and you wanted to change things. Now you know how we roll.” Sad but true.

I am not suggesting that you can’t have a fresh perspective after you have been around for some time. What I am saying is that most people give up. It is much easier to roll with the punches and accept status quo. Thinking like “a new guy” is hard work. It requires commitment to one’s beliefs and courage to give honest opinions even though people may get hurt.

Another reason why we don’t do it is that we need balls to say how terrible a particular idea is and we also need to put in a lot of extra work to come up with something better, smarter and more original.

This is my challenge to you: next time you hear something that doesn’t make sense, say you don’t like it. Straight up. Push the group to come up with something better. If someone throws the good old “that’s how we have always done it”, question it. Maybe you are not going to change the world but I am sure you feel a lot better for having said it.