In theory... Mavericks

Emma De Vita's weekly look at management-speak.

A maverick, according to the Collins Concise Dictionary, is "a person of independent or unorthodox views". The fashion, art and music worlds are full of them. But what is a maverick in the world of work? And why should anyone want to be one?

It might help to start by defining what a maverick isn't. A maverick manager does not have to wear zany shirts or behave like Sir Alan Sugar. Equally, a maverick organisation does not require its employees to parachute over the Berkshire countryside to prove that they are team players. Rather, maverick organisations and individuals stand out from the crowd because their beliefs are original.

Business is awash with companies trying to brand themselves as sexy and rebellious. Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win, by William C Taylor and Polly LaBarre, has captured the zeitgeist. The book's authors argue that organisations such as Commerce Bank, circus troupe Cirque du Soleil and animation company Pixar are all mavericks in a number of important ways: how they treat their employees, how they run their businesses and the fact that they achieve amazing customer satisfaction.

So what do these trapeze artists, animators and number crunchers do so differently? And what can the third sector learn from them? Originality in thinking seems to count for a lot: conventional top-down hierarchies are out; free-form teams are in. Mavericks take on the competition in innovative ways. Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of Ikea, was a maverick by deigning to take on the European furniture market with cheap flat-pack furniture. The establishment laughed in his face, but Kamprad is now worth an estimated £17bn.

Finally, a maverick organisation is not only a place where you work; it's a cause worth fighting for. That is also what a charity is. You are the original mavericks. Did you realise that you were so cutting edge?

- Emma De Vita is senior section editor on Management Today 

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