independent thinker

Ideas and Innovation

It can be hard work to be a trailblazer; challenging the prevailing wisdom, refusing to stay-the-course, and pushing others to deviate from the traditional and ordinary. It’s much easier, of course, to repeat that which has come before by moving along a well-trod path where we study someone else’s “best practices,” replicate them, and believe we’re being innovative. 

But that’s not good enough when we want to be catalysts for change in our rapidly evolving (and soon-to-be-outdated) workplaces. It takes courage – and a bit of chutzpah – to be what we like to call an “independent thinker.”  

Organizations – and HR teams – need independent thinkers; people who are willing to leave their comfort zones, resist the status quo and break old habits. They need adventurers (yes! adventurers!) who incrementally and consistently do things differently every day while continuously exploring novel ideas from a variety of perspectives.

“Thinking outside the box” is, admittedly, a cliché that causes us all to roll our eyeballs. (I’m rolling mine extraordinarily FAR back in my head just typing it). It is, however, readily understandable shorthand for divergent thinking which leads us down the path to independent thinking.

Independent thinking is a mindset and a mental shift. It’s taking a step down a new road. And it happens well before one can innovate, disrupt, or transform anything. It requires one to be:

  • Inquisitive. Independent thinkers regularly expose themselves to new ideas and thoughts. They’re curious about everything: society, trends, business, technology, politics, and pop culture. They interact with those who are different, intentionally seek out the information (books, articles, news sources) they might regularly avoid, and they recognize that others’ perspectives might be right too.
  • Intentional. Independent thinkers always ask “why?” They look for what’s broken and fix it while being purposeful in their quest for continuous improvement.
  • Inventive. Independent thinkers start by imagining their desired outcome (increased revenue? reduced costs? greater representation of BIPOC in their applicant pool?) and then, rather than doing a copy/paste of someone else’s “best practice” they create something unique that is designed to solve their problem. They take the time to think.
  • Intrepid. Independent thinkers are courageous. They stare down the status quo and vanquish it in battle. They dismantle that which is old, worn-out and serves no purpose (“but we’ve always done it that way”) and bravely build something new.

Independent thinkers believe in what they do, take risks, and proudly wear the badge of outlier. 

And badges are cool.

 “Great Things Never Came from Comfort Zones” Roy T. Bennett


Robin Schooling, Principal HR + People Strategy Consultant with Peridus Group, has worked the HR and Recruiting beat in various leadership roles since the days of the fax machine and rolodex. She’s a global speaker, has been blogging for a decade, and is co-host of Drive Thru HR. Find her on Twitter and you might get to see pictures of her three (yes, 3) dogs. 

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