Contrarianism is taking an action that contradicts prevailing wisdom. The term is usually used in investing for people that go against contrary wisdom, but it's also used in the cases of business planning and careers.
I'd like to talk about contrarianism and careers.
It's easy to follow the crowd, but as we know eventually that leads off the cliff. So career-wise, contrarianism is tempting – break with the herd mentality, see beyond conventional wisdom, turn things around to succeed. Yahoo having issues? Get a job there because people may be leaving. Windows 7 adoption is slow – specialize in it since no one else is. You get the idea.
Career-wise I'm mildly positive on contrarianism for careers as A) fortunes shift and change and thus the underdog may come back, B) people often follow conventional wisdom so much they miss opportunities in troubled times, and C) conventional wisdom is often incredibly stupid and WRONG (remember when home prices would never fall). I've made some contrarian plays before and they paid off in my career – staying in a troubled industry as it gave me career advantages, or switching my programming focus because I saw long-term changes in application delivery despite short-term failures (I was doing web apps before it was COOL).
However right now? Despite being an occasional contrarian, I am frustrated because I have no idea what the heck IS Contrarian now.
It's hard to fly against conventional wisdom when you're not sure just what it is, or when it changes moment by moment. I mean I can vaguely be sure e-publishing isn't going away, but when Amazon is suddenly knocked out by Barnes and Noble's Nook I'm not sure which side to take (and there's HOW many e-readers now). I can guess games will do well, but is the move to Downloadable Content inevitable, does one play contrarian and assume not, or is DLC ITSELF contrarian? Microsoft is jumping into hot new social media, Apple is the company to beat in some markets, Disney buys Marvel . . . Itís confusing.
It is hard to be a rebel these days when everything is already in a state of upset.
So if you're wanting to play contrarian – good luck. What is contrarian changes monthly or weekly anymore.
I think perhaps in the geekonomy in specific and the world economy in general, we can't count on contrarianism at least for now. Too much change, too much flux, and conventional wisdom is so broken and shattered I don't know what it is anymore.
And when even contrarianism fails you – THAT is disturbing.
- Steven Savage