I was challenged this week to use the word “errant” in something I wrote. This challenge, not surprisingly, came from a friend’s off-handed comment about an errant pickle on my sandwich, meant to poke fun at my own strict sense of what a Cuban sandwich should be and how it should be presented. (I’ll say right now that it was a fabulous meal that I’d order time and time again, but didn’t quite meet the definition of what a Cuban sandwich is. Yes, I’m pedantic, but I can still appreciate a great meal even when it doesn’t quite fit.) She enjoyed the idea, and the word, so much she challenged me to use it…
While I contemplated how to work the word in to my daily writing, I realized that the word itself tied directly in to my work in social business at a strategic and conceptual level, as the connotation of “errant” implies a negative while the denotation can actually become a positive.
Let me explain: Trying to be a change agent is hard. Changing culture is hard. But, what is often perceived as errant behaviour is one of the most critical pieces to accomplishing any success in changing a culture or being truly innovative. It is the dissent, the disruption, that many see as problematic but is critically necessary to break the culture out of its comfort zone and become more open to new ideas; ideas that may initially seem errant, but grow to become better methods or ideologies and ultimately change culture with positive effect.
Errant ideas or behaviour are simply that which stray from what is considered proper or standard. While this can indeed be negative or harmful in some ways, can also be positive and beneficial when thought and consideration is applied with informed intent. By way of example I point to the disruptive technology we know as Twitter: when used with informed intent the service can be an amazing agent for change by allowing perceived errant behaviour and ideas to be organized into an effective force for revolution.
Be it toppling ineffective governments or organizing against corporate greed, disruptive technology and the people who use them are on the forefront of culture change. Without our ability to stray from the standards, we doom ourselves to a stagnant and unsuccessful existence.