Outliers and Their Gifts

The Power of the Margins

It is such a tragedy that vast treasures of wisdom, creativity, and innovation lie buried in the margins; with the outcasts and the misfits, invisible and unheard…

“Our society is not set up to cope very well with people who are weaker or slower. More important, we are not skilled at listening to the wisdom of those whose life patterns are outside of the social norm.” (Jean Vanier, Becoming Human, p. 46)

“Listening is about being present, not just about being quiet. I meet others with the life I’ve lived, not just with my questions. I’ve learned along the way to be grateful for the unlikely trajectory my life has taken, the perspective it’s granted. It’s given me intimate familiarity with some margins that are in fact the heartbeat of a society and access to places where power is exercised—the power of idea, and the power of action.” (Krista Tippet, Becoming Wise)

“There is important wisdom to be gleaned from those on the margins. Vulnerable human beings put us more in touch with the truth of our limited and messy human condition, marked as it is by fragility, incompleteness and inevitable struggle… People on the margins, who are less able to and less invested in keeping up appearances, often have an uncanny ability to name things as they are. Standing with them can help situate us in the truth and helps keep us honest.” (Pat Farrell)

Power is exercised in so many ways. The power of domination and control is exercised in the marketplace and systems. But in the margins is where true power for change takes root. The power of an idea. The power of action. The power of making a difference in the roots and the hummus of community.


“The really serious innovation comes not from the middle of the mainstream but from the OUTLIERS.” (Harvard Business Journal)

“Who do you think made the first stone spears? The Asperger guy. If you were to get rid of all the autism genetics, there would be no more Silicon Valley; and the energy crisis would not be solved.” (Temple Grandin)

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” (Albert Einstein) An outsider’s perspective is required to bring fresh solutions to the stagnant pond of the mainstream.

“We are a case study at Harvard not because we do software testing but because we manage people that they call ‘the outliers’, says Sonne. “Those on the edges of normality.” …Hiring people on the autistic spectrum also opens up corporations to new ways of thinking. The Harvard Business School agrees.” (Harnessing the special skills of the ‘outliers’. The Irish Times ‐ Thursday, April 12, 2012)  http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/finance/2012/0412/1224314638308.html

Change - Snow
The Outcast and the Exiled - Snow
Where I Stand

“Everyone who lives and works within the autism field knows that we are witnessing a tsunami of young people with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum coming up through the school system, and soon transitioning into the labor market. The US Centre of Decease
Control (CDC) estimated recently that the number of autistic kids in the US has skyrocketed by 78% since 2000. Nowadays, one in 88 American kids has autism, according to the new figures, and one in 54 among boys. Those are facts we cannot ignore, and calls for decisive action.” http://specialistpeople.com/

“MOST JOBS call for people skills and teamwork, but for some roles they don’t matter a jot. For solo tasks or those that require attention to detail, managers know the social butterfly just won’t last. That’s why they’re hiring the Specialists. Prized for their structured minds, good memories, pattern‐recognition skills and perseverance, for software testing, quality control and data entry, the Specialists consultants outshine. Their natural advantage, explains company founder Thorkil Sonne, is autism”

“Eight years later, consultants at the for- profit company, all adults on the autistic spectrum, out‐perform the market. Clients include Microsoft, Cisco, Nokia and Deloitte.” http://specialistpeople.com

The logo tells the story of what Specialisterne is all about: to put people in places where they excel as included and valued members of society. Dandelion – weed or herb?

See also:

Creativity And Diversity: How Exposure To Different People Affects Our Thinking


Concept drawing by Mary Brown. Thank you Mary.

See also: Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers: The Story of Success. New York: Back Bay , Little, Brown, 2008. Print.

Gift--holding spaces - Snow
Gift as unique difference - Snow
Live powerfully - Snow

%d bloggers like this: