Can misfits enable a better economy?

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Man proposes, God disposes

I spontaneously think of a handful of recent situations where this idiom applies. We spent a week vacation at the Baltic Sea and my son injures his ankle at the beginning of the week during a round of football in the garden. The insurance card is of course at home in Bamberg. “Shit happens!” Luckily, I manage to welcome these surprises more often and see the positive in the imperfect. The injury forced us to take it a little slower, let me appreciate my mobility and health and let me discover a great bookstore with an integrated cafe (bookstore Wossidlo in Ribnitz, for all those who are in the region Fischland/Saaler Bodden).

If we are honest, our whole life is full of surprises and things that don’t work out as planned. Actually it makes life somehow exciting, doesn’t it? How often do the surprises ensure progress? Alexander Fleming forgets a few agar plates in his laboratory in 1928 and discovered Penicilin more by mistake. Nature is also full of surprises and imperfections. The black swans have even become bestsellers in the non-fiction category.

I love it when a plan works

However, there is usually a strong contrast programme in our companies. Projects are planned in detail and risks are assessed in order to avoid them as far as possible. Sales forecasts are made and production capacities are planned. Deviation from the plans is usually bad. Well, of course you are happy about more sales than planned. Even if these kind of positive surprises happen, managers ask for better planning. Production had to work special shifts and the first customers complained about longer delivery times. Although we regularly have to deal with surprises and the number of surprises increases, we still live the illusion of being able to plan and control.

By the way, school doesn’t look much better. Education PLANS define what is good for our offspring and provide for classification into good, sufficient and insufficient people. Who is not interested or who is not compatible with it, quicklybecomes a black sheep. But perhaps it is also a black swan. Albert Einstein was one of them. Richard Branson was another. Dyslexic without graduation also have talent and can make a fortune.

I therefore plead for more YES to surprises and the imperfect. For me, this is a great opportunity for a better and more sustainable economy. What could this look like?


A large German discounter sells flawed fruit and vegetables as “Krumme Dinger”, which translates to misfits. In whole-food shops this is standard for quite some time. A startup made it trendy. Meanwhile ever more supermarkets follow. A trend to welcome. Tons of food are rescued and do not land in garbage. Avoiding food waste as a business idea? 10 Startups compete to prove that one can even earn money with imperfection.

The idea can be transferred to other areas as you wish. Take for example the current discussion about returns? How about department stores named “Awful bad buys”? We could use artificial intelligence to exchange returns. I don’t like my blue jueans after unpacking. A hobby brewer two streets away was also interested, unfortunately they were no longer available. We meet and the blue jeans change hands for a box of selfmade IPA. You could also give the trousers to the family around the corner, where things are not going well financially. A donation receipt for the tax office is automatically generated digitally. With a little creativity you can certainly find better solutions than bans.

Entertainment programs over efficiency programs

The automotive industry in particular is struggling with a lot of surprises. Well, some may not find it so surprising that sales figures are declining. The company with the name of a Croatian physicist has also been building electric cars since not just yesterday. But that’s not the topic here. When many surprises come together, people like to speak of a crisis. What if we didn’t fight it with efficiency programs, but see it as an opportunity? If we don’t close factories and send people into early retirement? If we let a startup use the part of the production plant that is no longer needed. We let the experienced employee join them for free. Instead of gear parts, perhaps a product for robotics will come off the assembly line at some point. That would be an entertainment program instead of an efficiency program. Maybe we first have to take a different perspective on money. The idea of Mutbank has already thought in this direction.

Power to the children

What do we do in the field of education? How can we maintain and promote the love for surprises and the imperfect in our offspring? Quite simply, let them get to the surprises and the imperfect. Don’t go for the shiny employer branding program at the next “bring your kids to work” day, but show the imperfect and the surprises, the real life in a company. Invite them to the project meeting where the shit is hitting the fan. Take your time to explain the things. Listen carefully to their questions. Be prepared for the surprises that come with it. I’m sure a lot of great things can come out of it. If you want to go one step further, let them join the board of the directors. Let the fifth grade student make decisions that are really important. Not which food is served at the next customer meeting. It won’t be perfect. But perhaps the solution is better than the expensive advice bought from the management consultancy.


Maybe it’s all crazy. But maybe these ideas show how a YES to surprises and imperfections can create a better economy. Since a dinner with Martin Gaedt I’m on the hook with surprises and imperfections. Stephan Grabmeier’s Future Business Blogparade triggered me to put my thoughts into words. I invite you to discuss with me and develop it further. Let’s be #Kopföffner (approximately translates to “open the mind”) together. I am looking forward to comments, shitstorms and peope who develop these ideas further. Surprise me!