You’ve no doubt heard the term “sheep” applied to people who follow others blindly. You know the the people who buy the new ‘hot’ music album. The people who buy the shirt/hat of the new ‘champion team’ (basketball, football, baseball, etc). The people who go to {insert school name here} because that’s the school to attend.

Seth Godin describes the act of cruising through life as a sheep as “Sheepwalking” were he blames the education system and business world for these problems…and I agree with him.

.In one of the longest blog posts that I’ve seen from Seth, he does an amazing job describing what he calls “sheepwalking” and defines this concept as:

the outcome of hiring people who have been raised to be obedient and giving them a braindead job and enough fear to keep them in line.

I’ve always complained about the fact that the educational system in the US tries to create students that think alike and who have no real interest in being an individual. This is especially true in the business world and business schools. The modern day business school, and in particular MBA programs, spend a considerable amount of time teaching theory to students and not enough time teaching skills that need to be used in the real world. These skills, such as critical and creative thinking, leadership and management skills and the application of theory in the real world, are essential to a an individuals ability to break out of the herd.

The business world has also helped to perpetuate this type of behavior by creating a hiring process that rewards the ability to be just like everyone else. There is very little room for individuality as most organizations hire a based on their ‘cultural fit’ instead of on their individual abilities. I do believe that an organization should hire people that share a similar set of values, but that doesn’t mean that the only people that should be hired are those that have the same educational or work experience background. The ‘big name’ consulting companies usually only hire those people who have a degree from a top tier university and I’ve always wondered whether they do this because those universities create ‘better people’ or is it because they know that graduates from those programs know how to ‘fit in’. My gut tells me its because of those top tier universities graduate people who think alike and fit well within the big consulting companies.

I’ve always believed that most people want to fit in and be like everyone else…there’s really nothing wrong with that to a degree, but a little bit of individuality is good. Sure there are people who graduate from Harvard, Stanford, etc who are individuals…but I think these people the exception to the rule and not the norm.

In order to fix the problem of the ‘sheepening’ of people, the business and education worlds must embrace individuality as much as possible. Seth writes :

The biggest step, though, comes from anyone who teaches or hires. And that’s to embrace non-sheep behavior, to reward it and cherish it. As we’ve seen just about everywhere there’s been growth lately, that’s where the good stuff happens.

I wonder how many people within the business/education world agree with the above and whether those people can make any positive changes. Until those changes occur, I have a feeling that most businesses and educators will continue doing what they are doing…because thats what they were taught to do.

[tags] Seth Godin, Sheepwalking, Individuality [/tags]