Being Unreasonable may lead to Innovation

By Somali K Chakrabarti

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. ~ George Bernard Shaw


Doesn’t it sound like an oxymoron in a world where being reasonable is highly overrated.

In all social and professional setups we are always expected to be reasonable and we teach our children to be the same.

Then what exactly does being unreasonable amount to? Does it mean throwing your weight around, picking up unnecessary tantrums or arguments?  Hardly so, as impulsive actions without any a solid objective does not get you anywhere.

Image courtesy
Image courtesy

Let’s see what the interpretation of Unreasonableness might be and how to be productively unreasonable.

If we go by pure logic, it would be unreasonable for anybody to take chances and try out something that one hasn’t done before.

As much as I believe in the importance of analytical and logical thinking, yet somewhere I also believe that only an unreasonable conviction about an idea can motivate you to channelize your efforts into a new direction.

So how do we become unreasonable and learn to knock down the challenges we face?


Be innovative

In his book, David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell points out that David succeeded in toppling the giant by being innovative and disregarding the rules of single combat.

To win against a giant, you have to change the rules. You have to devise your own strategy and rules. You have to innovate, whether with the use of technology, or by forming communities, ‘discovering ‘blue oceans’ or by disruption.

If you read the Story of Amul movement, you would see how farmers at Anand united against the existing powerful diaries to form their own cooperative.

To change a situation, it is essential to question and break the status quo and one needs to be unreasonable for that.


Turning disadvantages  into advantages

What we sometimes view as an advantage or a disadvantage may not always be so.

  ‘The powerful are not as powerful as they seem, nor the weak as weak’. ~ Malcolm Gladwell

Learning to harness our disadvantages can strengthen us and they may even turn out to be into advantages in the long run.


Avoid complacency

We sometimes tend to underestimate the extent to which effort, motivation and focus can affect an outcome.

At times, when you know how good you are, your self-belief can lead to over confidence resulting in complacency. This can be delusional when you are proven wrong, It is absolutely essential to avoid complacency.

In his book Outliers, Gladwell has provided number of examples that show that 10,000 hours of work and fine tuning, are needed to attain expertise in any field – from business to sports.


Think out of the box 

Though it may sound like a cliché, but yet it is worth mentioning here that you need to think beyond what is normal or what the prevalent way of doing things is.

Obviously things are done in a particular way for some good reasons, but asking good questions can help you to explore different ways of doing things.

Say if you ask ‘What if we did this? ‘, ‘Would this be a good idea’, you may stumble across a new reason to do something differently in a better manner.

Trying to look at a problem in a different light prepares you for choosing or building alternatives.


Expect the unexpected 

Our guiding framework on upside and downside makes us cautious, but also prevents us from considering extreme situations.

Unreasonable expectations can accelerate productivity and efficiency. So set high expectations of yourself and plan and work diligently on turning your bold goals into reality.


So now you know that unreasonable thinking is not about ignoring all your accumulated wisdom, it is about harnessing it to produce a shift in thinking so that you can challenge your own assumptions, verify what you believe is correct, minimize biases, and tap your potential.

The fear of unknown or the fear of failure always holds us back from realizing our true potential. Yet, the only way to create breakthroughs is by taking the road less travelled, by being unreasonable and creating ideas that shift the paradigm.

As Gladwell puts it:

Unexpected freedom comes from having nothing to lose.


What do you think about being productively unreasonable?


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Unreasonableness. Underdogs & unexpectedness. – Adam Nathu, London Business School Review

37 thoughts on “Being Unreasonable may lead to Innovation

  1. This is a nice thought. Indeed the premise for innovation. Sounds strange but true. The word by itself has negative connotation, the moment you say somebody is unreasonable…you look at him differently. You try to defend your thoughts, you counter his thoughts and many times we ridicule his thought being unreasonable…unless someone moves away from the convention he cannot create a new way of looking at things. At the outset when we change the path or talk about a different perspective people resist and react…all out of box think has similar initial assessment. But once it gives an innovative solution to solve the problem, everybody embraces it without any complaint. New ideas or new thoughts needs nurturing and it takes time grip the ground and stand tall.😀


    1. Thank you Nihar for sharing your views on this. I agree with you that the word unreasonable has a negative connotation indicating wayward, biased, illogical etc. When people try out something new, against the norms they appear unreasonable to start with. If the thing clicks , then the same unreasonableness is labelled as vision, persistence and all. Always good to have such discussions with you on such topics that appear irrelevant in day to day interactions, and yet have some meaning. Have a great day.🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There are these words (unconventional, unreasonable, stubborn, etc) which are normally used negatively but if used properly and for a right cause can create newer things and even many times can be smart innovation. But the context and the application what matters…it is always a pleasure to have such lovely discussion with you and the topics you choose are so engaging…it keeps me thinking.😀

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Indrani for your kind words. Just making use of the blog as a sound board for thoughts and really happy to see that people agreeing with the line of thoughts and/ or buliding on them and adding perspectives.


  2. Your post makes me to mention about ju-jitsu ( also jiu-jitsu or ju-jutsu )
    a Japanese system of unarmed combat and physical training the secrets
    of which were guarded by the nobles of Japan for many centuries .Generally we
    try to overcome an opponent’s strength by our own strength .Jiu-jitsu ‘the yielding art’
    is not trying to overcome an opponent’s strength but seeming to yield to it .It may seem unreasonable and impractical but the art of jiu-jitsu based on sound knowledge of human body
    will get an opponent off balance and throw him off into floor with great force . You have also given the good example of boy David taking on giant Goliath .Imaginative thinking and innovative ways though may seem unreasonable at first glance may lead to breakthroughs not achieved otherwise .
    Congrats for your very logically analysed post .


    1. Thanks a lot for telling us about Ju-Jitsu. I had heard the name but didn’t know much about it, This seems to be a very good example of an art that deviates from norm, seems unreasonable or impractical, and yet achieves the same objectives.


  3. Couldn’t agree more Somali. A very well-written and inspiring post from you again. The fear of failure is something that holds us back, many times. Unconventional thoughts, most of the times, are not welcomed by the society. But that definitely is a sign of progress, for an individual and eventually for the humankind…🙂


  4. very well brought out…..i read somewhere that to succeed, one needs hopeless optimism to go on….when no one believes except you yourself, when actions seem to defy logic, yet you egg on….that’s when you reach where you want to be…..


    1. Thanks Sunaina…Yes without hopeless optimism, one won’t be motivated enough to strive for translating his or her ideas into reality..However another fact is that there is a fine line or an overlap between optimism and hubris (maybe due to previous success) . The ability to separate out the two and apply judgement accordingly is equally important, as one has to practically know when to change direction.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yeah, it is little complex. If we are reasonable, we won’t try things or even dare to think out of the box. We will be confined within four walls. Not an ideal situation for growth. Be unreasonable, challenge yourself and bring new ideas to the world.


  6. Very true Somali .
    Unconventional, out of the box,different are those who dare to think original . And all progress come from it. Similarly difficulties made revolutions happen .
    One should remember that ” Problems are opportunities in work clothes! ”
    A nicely written and well presented piece dear🙂


    1. Thank you Kokila. I completely agree that problems can present opportunities that we may not have envisaged before. It depends a lot on how we look at them. Some of the biggest brands like Honda, Walt Disney, Nutella were born out of constraints.🙂


  7. A very interesting post and some fresh perspectives here. However I’m not too sure if unreasonable conviction and turning disadvantages to advantages can actually be equated to being unreasonable🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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