“Unfortunately you’re not a good cultural fit for our company.” These words are the flashing red alert that you just avoided a landmine. Upon hearing their harmonic ring in your ear you should be thankful. You were nearly drawn into a close minded enclosure, and narrowly escaped with your personality, no less! At least they were honest about their hiring practices. They are looking for people who fit into their clinging, uncomfortable and mostly stifling mould. People who tow their line. Those who ask questions. Think what they are told to think, laugh when their boss laughs and stays quiet in case they make the wrong impression. People who enjoy being unique in the very specific way that everyone around them is unique. Thus it is safe and okay because the risk is dispersed. To be truly unique would be risky and potentially embarrassing.

At some point companies started confusing strong and productive culture with zero conflict. Anyone seen to question things or offer a better way is quickly shut down and ignored. People who don’t “look right” or “sound right” are also ignored. People from the wrong schools, with the wrong major, with the wrong work history. To have a wrong you must have a right, and to have a right means you have the answers already, and cannot learn any more. If the recruitment function of your HR can be replaced with keyword screening software, then every last drop of open minded thinking – the seed if innovation – has been squeezed dry. Algorithms instead of fair judgement by a person. Keywords instead of common sense.

Innovation is very uncomfortable. It is definitely not a beautiful journey of amazing discoveries. It is often a lonely battle of asking questions, and being told that the current method for doing that is just fine. It’s suggesting radical improvements and being laughed at because no one would ever want that. It’s doing what everyone says cannot be done. Focusing on what everyone says is irrelevant or impossible. It is being told you are wasting your time. It is being willing to fail and try again, as innovation will often come when you least expect it, and from arduous struggles.

Playing it safe in a modern world of rapid change is highly dangerous. It is all the companies and people running them who play it safe that will be most shocked by disruptive innovations. Those who cannot imagine an upside down world will be least prepared when they find their world turned upside down.