Cheers to the Contrarian


You’ve been working overtime to create the perfect presentation. A week of long nights creating spreadsheets, making graphics, and rehearsing has culminated into your grand debut. You’re proud of yourself, and the last thing you want to hear from your team is “no.” 

While we all need someone in our corner, we also need people to tell us no. Consider H&M’s advertising debacle. It wasn’t just about the sweatshirts; H&M failed to consider the political, social, and historical context of their advertisements. 

And that’s where the contrarian comes in. 

A contrarian pokes and prods, asks questions and challenges the norm. While criticism is always uncomfortable, it is far better to be challenged in the confines of a conference room rather than face the fiery fury of the internet. 

Consider these questions before your next team meeting or campaign:

Who does your story represent? Every business, organization or company has a story. It's up to the staff, employees, board members, and others to convey that story. As storytellers, it is our job to make sure that our story both represents and resonates with the right audience. Keep in mind that even though you may be targeting one specific audience, that shouldn't give you license to ignore people outside of that audience. Stories must be considered from multiple lenses: the customer, the opposition, the competition, the passerby, and others. Thoroughly analyzing how a product or advertisement may be received beforehand will help prevent publicity failures and corporate embarrassment. 

How does your story interact with other cultures? There are things within every culture that the outgroup has little or no comprehension of. Simply put, you cannot develop cultural sensitivity without interacting with people of different ethnicities, genders, and orientations. While it may not be your intention to offend, it is always better to include.

How will your story sound on the internet? As our world becomes increasingly digitized, any content your company produces is infinitely more accessible than you can imagine. Curating internet content is the perfect opportunity to engage the younger staff in your company in important company processes. They can provide valuable insight surrounding the social climate of Facebook, what’s trending on Twitter and more.

Is it time to bring in a new voice? Groupthink can be toxic, but many times we can be oblivious that it's even occurring. We become engulfed in our business and enchanted with previous successes. As an employer, it is your responsibility to build inclusive processes, and sometimes that means including a fresh set of eyes. Call in the new hire to give it a second look. Bring in someone from a different department to ensure cohesion. Consider hiring a consultant to get a better pulse on industry trends and changes. Bringing in an outsider will help you determine if a project correlates with the perception and mission of your company. 

This week, as you head back into yet another meeting, remember that your voice and integrity are why you have been chosen as part of the team.  One question, one push, or one pause can change the trajectory.