Essex breeds outsiders like nowhere else

A version of this article appeared in the Essex Chronicle

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Bestselling author Robert Kelsey has just written The Outside Edge with the aim of helping those that “don’t belong” succeed on their own terms

What does a white male know about being an outsider at work or in business? Since the publication of The Outside Edge: How Outsiders Can Succeed in a World made by Insiders I’ve been asked this question several times. It’s a fair one: not least because the media usually describes “outsiders” as those not from the clubby world of white-male insiders that, for millennia, have carved up the upper echelons of business, politics and the arts between them.

Dominant media outlets such as the BBC assume outsiders are people like Christine Legarde – the first female head of the IMF – or Tidjane Thiam, the first black-African CEO of a FTSE-100 company. Sure, they deserve praise for reaching the top while overcoming barriers. But being an outsider wasn’t one of them. Both were brought up within elite families, and attended the best Paris universities. They knew the rules and manners of being an insider: how to behave, what to say, who to know and what doors to knock on. They had insider knowledge, in other words: a code of conduct reserved for an insider elite.

So imagine knowing none of that. Imagine leaving a mid-Essex comprehensive (one that would, these days, find itself in “special measures”) with one O’level (in geography). And imagine having the uncouth accent, manners, slouch, dress-sense and – let’s face it – attitude that came with the territory for 1980s products of what can only be described as a “lowest common denominator” education system. And then imagine banging on those same doors – trying to break into the elite (privately-educated) salons of the London media industry.

That, my friend, is what being an outsider feels like. And it’s something people from Essex know all about, whether white, black, male, female, gay or straight.

Yet that’s just half the story. True outsiders feel estranged from their own social group and even their families. No matter what the occasion, true outsiders look around them and wonder why they cannot relate. Why they feel mentally distant – even alienated – from the jollity and bonhomie others enjoy.

Outsiders are culturally and psychologically adrift – rejecting their own group or tribe, and even their family, yet being unable to find another group to call their own, though some jump between groups in the effort. It’s a common phenomenon, especially from people suffering childhood stress in one form or another (family break-up, bullying, sibling rivalry) or who, in adolescence, develop what psychologists call an “identity crisis” – one lasting into adulthood and even middle age.

For normal careers, such traits are a disaster, as you’d expect. Cynicism, disrespect for authority, rebelliousness – all combine to make us ineffective, even troublesome, employees. We end up the office clown or the bitch or laggard or blamer: all signs that we’re on the outside, looking in – feeling like we don’t belong.

And yet outsiders also have positive traits – ones that could be highly effective in careers and business if only we knew how to employ them. For instance, many – if not most – outsiders are highly creative. They see things differently, which makes them inventive. They’re rule breakers: “out of the box” thinkers, often because they struggle when thinking “inside the box”.

 

Essex culture produces outsiders

Certainly, that describes me, but I think it describes many Essex men and women. Something in Essex culture produces creative people that disrespect authority – potentially as a reaction to suburban conformity but also in defiance of the snobbery we face when trying to integrate with artistic London cliques.

The county’s famous for it. Whether comedy (Russell Brand, Rik Mayall, Phil Jupitus, Dudley Moore), art (Grayson Perry, William Morris, Arthur Mackmurdo), music (Depeche Mode, Blur, Prodigy, Billy Bragg), or even literature (Jilly Cooper, Martina Cole, Tony Parsons), there’s something in the culture that produces – well – culture, though subversive culture that’s novel, confrontational and somehow rebelling against the London elite.

It’s the same in business. Shut-out from the wood-paneled boardrooms reserved for the old-school-tie, Essex men and women have taken their outsider status and used it to their advantage – generating some of Britain’s most famous entrepreneurs (Alan Sugar, Barry Hearn, David Sullivan, Deborah Meaden and even Jamie Oliver).

In fact, if there’s one thing all the people named above have in common it’s that they’re entrepreneurs. Whether in business or the arts, they’ve done their own thing – often going against the advice and warnings of others to do so: the classic attitude of the outsider.

Yet outsiders succeed not because they’re mavericks. That’s just the start. What they need are the key attributes for turning their creative or business genius into success. These include:

  • A growth mindset – opening your mind to learning and opportunities.
  • A plan. Dreams are not enough: a routemap is required.
  • A strategy for getting through those shut doors – especially the ones saying “Essex man/woman not invited”.
  • Influence over others – including the gift of persuasion.
  • Judgement – helping you make strong decisions.

 

I guess hard work can be added to this, but – if there’s one thing most Essex people have in common – it’s a strong work ethic. Certainly, we’re grafters – an Essex trait that makes me proud to put my name to my homeland. Indeed, writing The Outside Edge has made me admire my home county and all its maverick “entrepreneurs”. I guess that now includes me, which is strange because – having rejected Essex as a young man battling my own identity issues – I now realise it’s the place that made me who I am.

I get it now: thanks Essex.

www.robert-kelsey.co.uk

 

Can outsiders make good leaders?

A version of this article appeared in The Director.

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Robert Kelsey, author of The Outside Edge, says their failings can be turned into strengths with a few simple steps

There’s no use denying it – outsiders make awful leaders. Our individuality and selfishness, along with our sensitivity and defensiveness, are an explosive mix, making us ignorant of the needs of any team.

Sure, our innate creativity can inspire others to follow – as long as their admiration outweighs the shame and humiliation we heap upon them. But successfully creating and corralling team activities, as well as spotting, developing and motivating talent? Very unlikely.

Or, at least, very unlikely without some form of Damascene conversion. If outsiders can step through the mirror and realise the impact we have on them – rather than remain focused on the impact others have on us – we can become excellent leaders.

Leaders, what’s more, in tune with the needs of our team, able to unleash their creativity, organisational competence and execution skills. Yet this is an uphill task for outsiders. Here are five steps that can help outsiders become leaders:

1. Leaders need to go on a mission

Philosopher and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl opined that “what man actually needs is not some tensionless state but rather the struggling and striving of some goal worthy of him”.

Outsiders must find their mission: a cause – going way beyond any need for seniority – that all those involved can mentally invest in. If others can at least share that mission, they’ll see beyond your other failings.

2. Leaders need to develop a growth mindset

Stanford psychologist and Mindset author Carol Dweck divides the world into those with fixed, and those with growth, mindsets.

The former consider their attributes set in stone and spend much of their time concealing self-perceived weaknesses, which is a disaster when it comes to managing or persuading others. Those with a growth mindset, meanwhile, accept they have everything to learn and treat every encounter – including with juniors – accordingly, something that helps win people over.

3. Leaders need to set goals and delegate

Appreciating your team is one thing, setting them free to achieve quite another. But the mantle of great leadership is only bestowed on those who can.

A big leap in the right direction comes from meaningful delegation – what Ken Blanchard called “one-minute management”, in which we develop a joint vision of the final result before backing off completely.

This way, they not only learn skills (other than simply carrying out instructions), they own the work, which unleashes their creativity and is highly motivating. This should be combined with personal goal-setting for every team member so they can see how their involvement in the project furthers their own “mission” as much as the team’s.

4. Leaders need to control their emotions

Emotions are probably an outsider’s biggest barrier – not least because it’s our emotions that destroy rational judgement.

Many catastrophise their fears, accentuating their paranoia and making them poor decision-makers. Others – perhaps succeeding despite themselves – develop a preening arrogance that can lead to an inevitable, and disastrous, reckoning.

Yet controlling our emotions is, oddly, a matter of including them. If we first confess our hopes and fears we can ensure they’re just one part of our decision-making, alongside other elements such as process, control and creativity.

This will prevent your team feeling they’re being held hostage to your emotions and may help defuse your reactivity: a classic outsider trait you should learn to control. At the very least, practise your apology.

5. Leaders need to develop empathy

Many outsiders have what can be called “distorted empathy”, in which we find ourselves sympathising with society’s wrongdoers because we understand the alienation that generates deviant behaviour.

Of course, it’s not unhealthy to understand the motives of others – even what drives extreme behaviour. It simply needs to be strategically employed, allowing outsiders to empathise with the agonies of colleagues and, especially, juniors.

Being in tune with their emotional needs – not just our own – helps motivate them: not through terror or false incentives, but through the shoulder-to-shoulder pursuit of personal growth.

Ultimately, as outsiders we have it in our power to develop strong leadership skills, which – in turn – will help sharpen our creativity and multiply our output.

But we must first notice the impact we have on others rather than vice versa. If not, we’ll remain the lone wolf with, at best, some disciples who have yet to tire of our egocentric and selfish pursuits. And that hardly counts as leadership at all.

The Outside Edge: How outsiders can succeed in a world made by insiders, by Robert Kelsey – £9.99 Capstone

robert-kelsey.co.uk

@RobertKelseyWSY

Employing outsiders: a survival guide

A version of this article recently appeared in Management Issues magazine

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Outsiders are usually the disruptive workplace mavericks that employers cannot wait to see the back of. So how can managers turn them into positive employees? Robert Kelsey – author of The Outside Edge: How Outsiders can Succeed in a World Made by Insiders – explores the challenges and opportunities of employing misfits

 

There’s no denying it, employing outsiders can be painful. Sure, most misfits are creative – capable of thinking outside the box etc. But their individuality and selfishness – along with their sensitivity, defensiveness and dislike for authority – are an explosive mix, making them ignorant of the needs of any team, and certainly any leader. They can be viewed as troublemakers and condemned as rebels. And they’re a manager’s worst nightmare.

Of course, by outsiders I don’t mean vertical divides such as race or gender. Sure, being the “woman in a man’s world” is a challenge – generating self-consciousness, as well as concerns such as imposter syndrome. But they’re not intrinsically incapable of fitting in, unlike true outsiders. No, I mean the psychological, often behavioural, differences that divide sometimes troubled individuals from the group.

As I explain in The Outside Edge, the roots of such an estrangement are actually tribal, with certain individuals being incapable of adopting the norms, customs and practices of their allotted tribe (which, these days, can also mean their workplace community). This leads them to challenge conventions and even hierarchies, usually with negative consequences.

The roots of such estrangement can often be found in childhood stress: hence the defensiveness. By the time they reach adolescence, however, the feelings of “not belonging” have usually gelled into a full-blown identity crisis. Here, outsiders stop looking inwards and instead search beyond their community and peer group for identity. Of course, this makes them adventurers. But it also makes them almost impossible to control.

In the workplace, outsiders can feel trapped. They’re frustrated, though often highly competent. Many are risk-takers or mavericks. They’re creative, crafty, determined and certainly brave. Of course, some go on to become ground-breaking innovators in one form or another (music, art, film), while many more become entrepreneurs. Yet they can work well within a formalised company setting, as long as their managers know what they’re dealing with, as well as how best to incentivise them.

Certainly, utilising the skills of an outsider while keeping a lid on their destructive and self-destructive attitudes and behaviours, as well as their sometimes highly-volatile reactivity, can be an exhausting task for any manager. Most give up and plot their exit. Yet that’s a waste of energy and potential: far better to find a way of incorporating outsiders.

As a self-declared outsider I was a difficult employee, for sure. As an entrepreneur, can I now be a better employer of “difficult” people? Well – now that I’m the one managing, rather than indulging in, the sulks, paranoia and histrionics of the typical outsider – I try and utilise the insight gained from my own behaviour in my “terrible-twenties”.

Given this, what advice would I have for the poor employers of younger self? How should they have managed me? Six things:

  1. I’d have sold me the big picture. Philosopher and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl opined that “what man requires is not some tensionless state but rather the struggling and striving of some goal worthy of him”. Outsiders struggle and strive but to no purpose. Give them a purpose and they’ll fight for you like no other employees. But that requires bringing them in on the big picture. What are the greatest goals of the company? And its founding principles? And how is our outsider employee a core part of that quest?
  2. I’d have set personal goals, and then backed off. Outsiders react badly to being over managed. So set some personal goals, and then set them free to achieve. A big leap in the right direction comes from meaningful delegation: what Ken Blanchard called “One-Minute Management” in which a joint vision of the final result is agreed before backing-off completely to allow them to, not only execute, but discover the route to execution. This way, they learn skills rather than carry out instructions, which unleashes their creativity and motivates. Yet, this should be combined with personal goal-setting: so the tasks they undertake are clearly within a required framework – part of their personal big-picture.
  3. I’d have encouraged better decision-making. Outsiders make terrible decisions, largely because they’re too driven by their emotions to make rational judgements. Indeed, emotions are probably an outsider’s biggest issue. Yet controlling their emotions is, oddly, a matter of including them – as advised by Edward de Bono in Six Thinking Hats. De Bono states that preventing emotions from being the secret saboteurs of decision-making requires an admission that they’re important (so shouldn’t be suppressed). But that they’re just one part of any decision-making process. Other elements – such as process, control, optimism and creativity – are also relevant. Both fear and pessimism have a legitimate place in the process, just not a dominant one.
  4. I’d have encouraged empathy. Outsiders have a problem with empathy. In fact, many have what I call “distorted empathy”, in which they become divorced from what society judges good and bad – even finding themselves sympathising with the people most others condemn. Of course, this can be disastrous at work – with outsiders potentially causing offence with every utterance. Yet you – as their manager – should try the same trick. Stand in their shoes, just for a moment. See their struggles. And you’ll see that being aloof, pompous and hard-nosed only entrenches their estrangement – pushing them further to the edge. In fact, one effective trick when defusing a situation is to apologise (for anything). It shows respect and appeals to their overly-honed sense of injustice. And it usually has them doing the same back to you.
  5. I’d have praised liberally, but watched closely. Outsiders love praise. It’s their currency, far more than money or power. To have their work validated by their seniors helps overcome the self-esteem issues that secretly boil away within them. Yet they do need watching. Too much praise and they can become arrogant – buying the propaganda. So keep an eye on their reactions for signs of hubris, which can be dealt by liberally-praising others (rather than through destructively criticising them).
  6. Finally, I’d have given me real responsibility. Outsiders are mavericks requiring containment. But they’re also brave, competent and (usually) clever. In fact, stripped of the emotional baggage they can make great leaders, which is interesting as the process of making them a leader also prevents them being disruptive mavericks. Though it’s a courageous manager….

The Outside Edge: How Outsiders can Succeed in a World made by Insiders, by Robert Kelsey – £9.99 Capstone.

Rachel Dolezal’s identity issues are America’s problem, not hers

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As a teenager, my father gave me a serious lecture about the fluidity of tribal identity.

“You can change your name,” he stated. “You can also change your job, your religion, your mates, your nationality and even – these days – your sex. But you can never – ever – change your football team.”

Yes, another relegation-threatened season was challenging my allegiance to the Hammers, which – to my father – was a tribal crime beyond contemplation. He was half-joking, of course, yet there was serious intent behind the flippancy: that identity matters. You can alter everything about yourself, it seems. But there’s no denying where you come from – your “tribe”: the badge of which – for post-industrial “working-class” men in Britain – was the football club you supported on Saturday afternoon.

So what would my unreconstructed father have made of this week’s hoo-ha about Rachel Dolezal’s identity “confusion”? To those who’ve spend the week on Mars, Rachel Dolezal has won an extraordinary level of media attention for being outed as a white woman while pretending to be black. No big deal, you might say – people can surely claim what they like? Yet Rachel was a regional president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), America’s most-influential African-American lobby group (going right back to the civil rights era), as well as an African-studies professor at her local university in Spokane (a rather pleasant-looking town in the north-western US state of Washington).

She wore her colour on her sleeve, so to speak, though it turned out her skin tone was out of a bottle and her tight perm the result of curling tongs. As for the family lineage – it was a lie, eventually revealed by a video in which her apple-pie parents (of Caucasian Czech-German American stock) offered-up photos of a blond, green-eyed young Rachel (see above compared to the later images of the new Rachel sporting her “natural look”).

For America’s outrage industry, Rachel’s crime has been her attempt to carry herself as someone she wasn’t: a black woman representing her minority in professional circles. Yet opinion divides regarding whether this was due to some form of personality disorder (“histrionic” being the most cited), or whether she was “gaming the system” to use the euphemistic phrase of Gary Younge’s in The Guardian (i.e. she was committing a form of identity fraud for personal advancement).

“Rachel has wanted to be somebody she’s not,” said her mother Ruthanne on the show-and-tell video – leading the advocacy of the “nutjob” defence. “She’s chosen not to just be herself, but to represent herself as an African American woman or a bi-racial person and that’s simply not true.”

Unsurprisingly, the “she’s a fraud” prosecutors are even less sympathetic. Here’s Alicia Walters, a “race expert” actually from Spokane (though now living in California) on Rachel’s subterfuge:

“Dolezal managed to put on an identity – that of a black woman – in a way that renders invisible the experiences that actually forged for us our identities as black women. She presented to the world the trappings of black womanhood without the burden of having to have lived them for most of her life. She represented us and gained status in both black and white communities as one of us, even though she could have worn her whiteness and talked to white people about their racism – something sorely needed in a town like Spokane.”

Indeed, the notion she could have “worn her whiteness” and still campaigned for the NAACP is a common refrain from those angered by Rachel’s deceit. But could she have become the regional president, or a professor in African studies (though admittedly one confessing to have never been to Africa)? We’ll never know.

But I don’t think Rachel a nutjob or a fraud. What I think is that she developed “role confusion” in adolescence, resulting in an identity crisis, which settled into a desire for a new identity (Erik Erikson’s the shrink on this one, in case you wondered). Psychologically, this is similar to the day I almost became a Chelsea supporter, or maybe the times I over-egged my Cockney credentials at college, or even like the day some of my heavy-metalist school-acquaintances turned up at the town disco in full mod regalia (Weller-cuts and parkas) and started picking fights with their former associates.

But, of course, we’re talking about race, which cuts through identity like a knife. The racial divide is America’s “original sin” (Obama’s phrase) – a cleavage cut so deep and so early into the country’s psyche that it permeates everything and everyone (something that truly shocked me while living in the US in the late 1990s). It’s an emphatic – genetic – divide: you’re either black or you ain’t – there’s no getting the right gear and haircut and simply joining in. And Dolezal most definitely ain’t.

That said, her role confusion is not all her doing. Her parents raised Rachel in a predominantly black area in the racially-charged Deep South state of Mississippi. Here: blond, pale, green-eyed Rachel was the misfit, trying to fit in. Her parents even adopted two sons, both black. So the white Rachel lived in a black neighbourhood with black friends and siblings, which means – just maybe – she does have some insight into what it feels like to be a minority.

Soon she had a black husband too, although it was the failure of this marriage in 2004 that started Rachel’s slide in self-identity – something that accelerated after a start-over migration west. Here she could reinvent herself, a very typical move from an outsider seeking meaning: one giving her life a new purpose through the pursuit of what really motivated her – the struggles, identity and politics of African Americans, as experienced by those closest to her at various points in her life.

Of course, as many people have claimed, Dolezal could have done the same while remaining officially white. After all, there are many white campaigners in the NAACP (as there were in the original civil rights campaigns of the 1960s). Yet these are mostly middle class liberals, condemned – both by white conservatives and black purists – as “bleeding hearts”. For her, the affinity with black identity went far deeper than white “guilt”. It defined who she was – in thought and (to an extent) in background, if not in actual genes.

So we should cut her some slack, in my view. After all, wasn’t it Dr. Martin Luther King who wanted Americans judged by the content of their character rather than the colour of their skin?

That said – and given the deception – many would say it’s her character that’s being questioned. In her desire for authenticity, she took that fateful step. She lied that her white father was her step-father and her biological father was in fact black (even producing pictures of an unrelated black man from Idaho to prove it). Sure, it was a falsehood. Yes – given the quota applications of many university teaching posts – she may have technically denied a black person employment. But, for Rachel, it confirmed her intense affinity with the black community and, more importantly, her estrangement with the white tribe to which she was genetically – and arbitrarily – ascribed.

A new life, new ambitions and a new identity: using what’s useful from her past while ditching unhelpful complications. She’s hardly the first to do it and she most certainly shouldn’t be the last. Indeed, it’s something I advocate in The Outside Edge. For outsiders, seeking new identities as part of our quest for meaning is a very necessary part of the process. Rachel’s problem was that part of her lost baggage was her biological inheritance, which is a pretty unforgiving concern in American society. Yet that’s America’s problem. It isn’t Rachel’s.

 

www.robert-kelsey.co.uk

 

Is this the best time and place to be an outsider?

To match feature LEHMAN/GEKKO

Is now the best time to be an outsider? Since the launch of the book, I’ve been asked this several times in interviews, and it’s got me wondering. Certainly, as a society we seem to be producing more and more people that feel like they don’t belong – but this doesn’t necessarily equate to an advantage for the estranged. And I guess we also have to add a geographic element to the question: is this the best time to be an outsider in Britain?

On reflection, the answer has to be “yes”: despite the maverick machismo of 1980s America (the world of Gordon Gekko and Donald Trump), there’s never been a better time to be an outsider. And, yes, I think the geographic rider also relevant: Britain is, probably, the best place to be an outsider. Lucky us.

There are five key trends supporting this thesis.

First, the nature of work is changing. In fact, work’s changing rapidly. Yes, the number of small businesses are proliferating (the UK now outstrips even the US in company formation rates) but that’s not all. There’s not a single economic sector that’s failing to liberalise employment practices to increase the number of freelancers, contractors and agency workers it employs.

Of course, at the lower end of the skills-spectrum this can be viewed negatively (highlighted by zero-hours contracts becoming an election issue). Yet, increasingly, key skills are being bought in, meaning that those unable or unwilling to integrate into office/workplace life – an indicative failing for many outsiders – can still find gainful employment, often selling their skills from their kitchen table. This is particularly the case with the creative skills in which outsiders excel.

The future of the large company – it seems to me (and I include even the NHS in this) – is as a network: procuring individual or entrepreneurial skills that are bundled, branded and packaged for the benefit and consumption of a particular customer base.  1-0 to the outsider.

Second, technology. Of course, this workplace flexibility has been supported by technology. Offices and workshops developed because the endeavours of production required people and equipment to work in teams (just ask Adam Smith). As the output grew in scale (through industrialization) so the workplaces also grew, and clustered together: hence the growth of specialized cities such as Manchester (cotton), Birmingham (metal bashing) and Sheffield (steel).

So far, so obvious. Yet this process is now in reverse thanks to the internet, the laptop, the smart-phone, and – crucially – thanks to the fact the UK is becoming a knowledge economy. Creativity, draftsmanship, analysis and calculation are the key skills that matter: skills requiring concentration over collaboration (hurrah, shout the outsiders who innately dislike collaboration).

Increasingly, we’ll only collaborate to generate project ideas, and we’ll only meet to sell them: hence the growth of independent meeting-room suites (in places such as Regus) and all those wi-fi enabled coffee-shops (otherwise occupied by freelancers escaping the kitchen table for an hour or two).

Extraordinarily – thanks to innovations such as 3D printers – this is even extending to manufacturing. No wonder so many outsiders are geeks!

Third, the rebirth of city living. The modern British outsider is not only benefiting from changes in the nature of work: changes in the nature of living also count in their favour. Chief among these is the rebirth of the inner city. Outsiders belong in cities – the bigger (and more anonymous) the better. Only in the inner city can outsiders do what they do best: stare out of the café window pondering existentialist agonies while watching the world go by.

Suburbia, exurbia and beyond are highly conformist societies and their post-war growth – in my view – generated the conditions for the proliferation in outsiders. The baby-boomers and then generations X and Y were forced to endure a suburban childhood (me included). As individualists we rebelled against the strictures of conformity: a rebellion adopting many guises – from the geek, to the emo or goth (or the New Romantics of in my youth), even to the “only gay in the village”. Yet, in reality, it was an individualism that belonged in the city: and from the 1980s onwards that’s where we increasingly – as adults – settled.

Of course, urban living has its irritations, but that’s the point – it’s pretty pointless being all moody and moonful with just the hedgerows watching.

Fourth, social liberalism. On election night Nick Clegg declared the death of liberalism in Britain. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Just as economic liberalism has brought (sometimes disruptive but mostly opportunistic) changes to the workplace, so social liberalism has allowed people to adopt individualistic identities with impunity. Never before has outsidership been so encouraged, so celebrated, so lauded.

Of course, as I point out in The Outside Edge, the “advantages” of being an outsider are not what they seem – with individualistic expression often the reserve of an eccentric elite while true outsiders are disabled by traits such as a dislike of authority. Yet, over time, such freedoms are democratized: to the point that, no matter how you divide society (gender, race, age, class, ability, sexuality) you can (a) express it, and (b) find a supportive social group (though true outsiders will soon reject it).

In fact, liberalism is now so rife that it threatens outsidership from within. Given the dominance of self-expression, it’s becoming difficult to complain that “no one understands you” when, increasingly, they clearly do. Not only that, there’s a group – and a grant – to cater for your needs, with technology facilitating the connection. The result: an outsider’s arms race, in which essentially middle-class kids compete for the most compelling hard-luck backstory (guilty I’m afraid).

And, fifth, the growth of creative industries. As stated, outsiders tend to be creative souls. Our unique vantage point makes us original thinkers, which is usually expressed in some angst-based artistic form (whatever the medium). Well, that’s just great, as creativity is one of the biggest economic growth sectors, and (at least for now) the most secure. Sure, there are threats: both the low-cost production regions (such as Asia) and the growth in human-mimicking technology may yet consume the UK’s lead in the creative industries (media, marketing, advertising, PR, design, film, music, television, gaming etc). But, in the medium-term, creativity in the UK is supported by cheaper production in Asia (for cheap materials and printing etc.) and by the enablement of technology. Happy days!

Of course, all the above elements are self-reinforcing, creating a virtuous upward spiral of positive individualism. So things are only likely to get better for the outsider – at least in the medium term. As for the long-term, well – for once – I’m also an optimist. Why? Because a crucial aspect of all the above is the growth in entrepreneurialism: a mindset in which people do what they want for whom they want while working for their own account – usually after acquiring the skills and market nous to do so.

So, while the markets, skills and output will change – for sure – the individualism, freedom and self-expression required to find and meet the new demands won’t. And that means outsiders can both find meaning through entrepreneurial endeavours, as well as flourish economically while doing so.

The outsider genie is now out of the bottle. I cannot see it being forced back in any time soon.

www.robert-kelsey.co.uk