For some reason, I’ve always been fascinated with the word “heretic”. Perhaps it’s the Devil’s Advocate in me (Oh! What a pun!). Perhaps its because I love being ‘heretical.’ Perhaps its because being heretical is key to innovating. And this word has been around for millennium!
We usually associate heretic with religion, namely, the Roman Catholic Church: Inquisition, burning people at the stake, etc. However, the origin is secular; the Greek hairein – “to take” that became hairetikós – “able to choose” from the verb hairesthai “to choose”. At the end of 2ndCentury A.D., the Latin version haereticus already meant a ‘heretic’ – someone whose beliefs were false or sacrilegious vis-à-vis the teachings of the Catholic Church. Haereticus became heretique in Middle French and heretik in 13th Century Middle English. Interestingly, by the late 14thCentury (think Chaucer), heretik, in addition to the religious connotation, added back its original secular meaning “anyone who does not conform to an established attitude, doctrine, or principle.”
No, this isn’t a treatise on entomology or religious doctrine. This is about innovation. Innovation is about challenging the status quo, accepted doctrines and conventional viewpoints. Fortunately today, innovators do not get burned at the stake, exiled to islands or made into slaves. But, in established institutions, they may be shunned, ignored or even fired.
If you want your business and organization to grow and make a difference (and a profit!), you need to encourage your heretics. You need to give them support, air cover, outlets for exploring ideas, and venues to be heard. No, this is no longer the Age of Aquarius; it’s the Age of the Heretic! So tell me, how are you going to be heretical?
Deb, founder of Mills-Scofield LLC, is an innovator, entrepreneur and non-traditional strategist with 20 years experience in industries ranging from the Internet to Manufacturing with multinationals to start ups. She is also a partner at Glengary LLC, a Venture Capital Firm.