“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different” – Coco Chanel

While Kolin made many valid points in Successful Writing that Works, I’m going to have to give Coco the win here.

In one of his chapters, Kolin acknowledges “Ten Proven Ways to Be a Team Player”.  I found myself (mostly) agreeing with points 1-9, but when I got to number 10, I just lost it.  Point number 10 reads: ‘Go with group consensus’.  Now is anyone else as frustrated/ disgusted by this mandate as I am?  This goes against everything we have been taught about individuality and the value of each person’s opinion.  Kolin is telling the audience that not only is conformity acceptable, but it is beneficial in this case.  Okay, I will get off my soap box now (only slightly).

I can see where Kolin is coming from in a very very small way.  It would be exhausting and unnecessary for one member of a group to disagree with every decision that the group makes.  After all, group work requires collaboration and compromise.  This does not mean, however, that a group member should stifle his or her opinion on important topics.  Take the examples of children going against their parents and pursuing a career path that is against the wishes of their superiors.  If every child followed the groupthink and pursued a ‘sensible’ career in medicine or law, there likely wouldn’t be any musicians, athletes, artists, etc in the world.  It took these people being brave and sticking to their own opinion to allow them to achieve greatness.

I view this group project in the same light.  Although compromise is necessary in some cases, the loss of individuality could ultimately make the outcome of the entire project suffer.  The reason groups work so well is that each group mate brings a unique perspective to the table.  The opinions of these people should be celebrated, not hidden.

So I’m sorry Kolin, but I will not “accept the group’s decision as final”. I will be that “lone ranger” when it can be of benefit to the group and to the project.  After all, as Coco so eloquently stated, “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different”. I’m going to make that my Number 10 instead.


4 thoughts on ““In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different” – Coco Chanel

  1. Agreed, Abigail. Maybe “pick your battles” would have been a better way to frame that particular gem of advice. While you certainly don’t want to swim upstream purely for the sake of doing so, you also don’t want to compromise what could be a wonderful idea simply because others aren’t immediately on board. I do think, though, that in order to “swim upstream” effectively, one must be able to take into consideration the perspectives of group members in order to frame ideas in a way that will help them see where you’re coming from… to NOT go with consensus is certainly to take a risk, one that requires some rhetorical strategizing if you’re to win over the crowd.

  2. I think this is such an important distinction to be made. The way that Liz words it seems very appropriate, “pick your battles.” While I know there are plenty of very outspoken people in groups, I have had less experience with those type of people than I have had with people who don’t talk enough. (Maybe I’m the outspoken one who talks to much? I hope not). I think it’s important to encourage sharing of opinions in groups, especially for an age group where many of us are still trying to find our voice. We need to be reminded to be individuals.

  3. I love how you had an issue with the reading and were able to defend why you found it so frustrating. You also fit your title in a way that had me thinking about individuality in a positive light before I even clicked in the article (great title I must add). You did a great job of relating the issue that you found in the reading back to our current classroom projects. Your words will be swimming in my head as I head to any of my many group meetings with week!

  4. While I was reading through Kolin’s piece, I didn’t even pause or give any second thought when I came across his 10th “Proven Ways To Be A Team Player”. After having read this post, I’m shocked that I didn’t react to that point in the same way because I couldn’t agree more with your stance. Although I do agree that rather than an outright rejection of Kolin’s idea, a more carefully constructed statement such as the one Liz presented, is more appropriate due to the undeniable reality that sometimes, you’re just wrong. Regardless, you reminded me of how important it is to express and defend my own ideas that I strongly believe will benefit the group even if they are initially opposed to it because I do tend to give up easily when the popular opinion conflicts with mine.

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