Why fit in when you were born to stand out?―Dr. Seuss
“Your glasses are too funky, your shirts are too loud and your watch is too green. If you want to succeed here you should try ‘mirroring’ the executives, you’ll be a VP in a year.”
This sage, enlightening, and simultaneously horrific statement was given to me once as well-meaning career advice. My advisor even got more specific, suggesting I go to Brooks Brothers and spend $300 at the sale rack. The most tragic aspect of this advice? It was absolutely spot on.
Obviously I didn’t go off and do it; it sounded more like part of a sick and twisted sociological experiment than career advice.
But what is so threatening about a green watch?
I am genuinely amazed by the number of people who comment on my watch—it’s started many a conversation. The comments fall into three categories:
• observational – “You have a green watch.”
• contemptuous – “You have a green watch?”
• aspirational – “You can have a green watch!”
I’m not raising the stereotyping associated with this watchism to a level of hateful prejudice here—but it does seem to be an effective technique for identifying close mindedness. Stereotyping and closed mindedness being symptoms of groupthink, and its associated desire for conformity. The next stage of this cycle is self-censorship, with the peer pressure asserted against deviant watch-wearing behavior bringing about the switch to a more consensus-driven timepiece. A tried-and-true, gold, with a brown leather strap edition perhaps?
Once the pattern of morality, peer pressure and group belief in what is right and appropriate is in place, the status quo and uniformity get continually reinforced. The guards are in place to prevent both outside and internal dissent.
The drift towards homogeneity starts. The watch, the blue shirt, the pleated khakis and the shiny slip-on shoes with brass ended tassels, then the Brooks Brothers sales rack, and the mirroring, and the promotion, the title, the success. And once you’ve made it, don’t rock the boat, don’t speak out, don’t stand up, just go along to get along, we all agree, we’re all on the same page, we know how to do this, everything is just fine as it is—and don’t let the crazy dude with the green watch in.
Of course, this is not just about watches—this is about ideas and thinking wrong. And incidentally…the green watch at the top of this post belongs to another Future collaborator, Marty Butler. Coincidence?
Future is on the lookout for places where green watches are challenging the status quo. Green watch = thinking wrong. Check it out here.