We Love the Outliers

Two things you should know about me:

  1. I am not a scientist
  2. Math was never my strong suit

These two facts mean through my high school and college career the highest level math course I took was statistics. Interestingly enough from this course I grew to love collecting data and have a very distinct memory of a teacher telling us to ignore outliers. After all these were just blips on the road to a smooth bell curve. 

Fast forward to a few months ago and I was having a conversation with one of my engineering colleagues and I made some comment about ignoring the outliers. She stopped me and said "No. We love the outliers!". She gave a great explanation that for many scientists the outliers are the interesting things happen that lead to greater discovery. This is where the mutations take place, this is where the innovation happens! 

This conversation has had a huge impact on me and I find in acts of leadership I tend to focus on the outliers more. If enrollment spiked one year instead of dismissing it I'm trying to get to the root, because maybe it can be replicated. If one faculty member has a negative opinion of the way I'm doing something I try to get to the heart of that. Perhaps there is something that I'm doing that this person is sensitive to and I'm just not seeing it.

Consider me a fan of the outliers!