Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What is your Eccentricity Quotient?

Everyone has heard of an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and Emotional Quotient (EQ). In a nutshell, these are the scores that generally tell you how smart you are and how well you will perform in a social setting, respectively.

I think there should be a third one, an Eccentricity Quotient for people who can think outside the box and come up with creative, even out-of-the-world solutions and products.
You may have a high enough IQ to crack any math quiz or crossword puzzle and have the charm, grace and people skills needed to be the President of the United States or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company but may not be able to push beyond the boundaries of established thinking.
A person such as Albert Einstein or Steve Jobs truly thinks outside the box no matter what their field. Many geniuses were eccentrics in their own right.

There is a book titled, A Whole New Mind - Why right-brainers will rule the world by Daniel H. Pink.

This post has ideas that are somewhat related to the premise of the book mentioned above.
Disclaimer: I have only skimmed through the book, not read it completely.

I am not sure if all the people I talk about in this post would qualify as right-brainers but they definitely have one thing in common: they are a cut apart from the pack.

Eccentricity Quotient may not even be just a brain function, it could be a combination of creative brain power, talent and pure, raw guts.

Think of a rock band such as Nirvana, film makers such as Martin Scorsese or Alfred Hitchcock, the iPod/iEverything conceiver Steve Jobs, the legendary artist/sculptor/mathematician/scientist Leonardo Da Vinci or even the Wright brothers (who would have thought that someone would actually successfully build a flying machine?). There may be several more in the field of medicine or science taking paths that the ordinary mortal fears to tread.

An eccentric does not have to dress or walk or talk like someone completely out of place with his/her surroundings. They may fit perfectly well otherwise in their social settings. They may not even build/create products. It is their willingness to think beyond generally accepted hypotheses that sets them apart.

For that matter, I would count Malcolm Gladwell (author of Blink, Tipping Point and Outliers) and the authors of Freakonomics (doesn't the name say it all?) Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, too, in this category. Until I read Freakonomics, I did not ever think economics could be so much fun and encompass so many different realms of life. Of course, economics is involved wherever any transaction is present, be it prostitution or investment banking but the way the subjects are dealt with is what sets this book apart.

Outliers confirmed my suspicions about the over simplification of success stories and opened new portals of understanding. This is out-of-the-box journalism.

Nikola Tesla, the discoverer of alternating current (AC), the bedrock of industries and modern cities, was an eccentric, too. He challenged none other than Thomas Edison, the inventor of the electric bulb with his theory that locked horns with Edison's theory of Direct Current (DC) being the solution to all electrical problems. One of the channels, Discovery or Science, had a nice program on the rivalry between Tesla and Edison when Tesla was employed by George Westinghouse.
Do check out the Wikipedia page of Nikola Tesla. Most people would have heard of both the great men, Edison and Tesla and their contributions to the field of electricity and to the progress of humanity. I did not know this much about the man, Tesla and the staggering number of devices and theories that he came up with.
At the time I started this column, I was writing in general about people who strayed off the beaten path but the Wikipedia article blew my mind. He was a genius!

And let us not even begin on Charles Darwin. Can someone imagine telling people who only believed in the literal world of the Bible that humankind descended from apes? That must have taken a lot of nerve.

Think of Gandhi. When the world was going to war left, right and center, Gandhi successfully pioneered what was probably the very first non-violent political uprising on a mass scale in recent history. I may be wrong on the word 'first' but I've never heard of anything of the sort anywhere else prior to the last century.

People who think out of the box today are far less vulnerable to persecution, especially in developed democracies such as the United States. Remember Galileo was not so lucky in his day.

However, without them, the world as we know today would probably not exist. We still have a long way to go in every field, be it energy efficiency, personal relationships, crime prevention or world peace.

May the eccentrics not hide their gifts.

Note: All links, with some exceptions, point to Wikipedia and Amazon.com