Having recently taken a computer network security course, the idea of anomaly detection is fresh in my mind. Security professionals, whether it be in the physical or virtual world are hyper-aware of suspicious behavior. Suspicious behavior by definition is abnormal activity. So it stands that in order to identify the abnormal we must first establish the normal.

Just about every one of us has our own process of creating a “profile of normal”, some more deliberately than others.

  • Health professionals know what normal vital signs look like
  • Automobile mechanics use an established normal to diagnose mechanical problems
  • Educators are able to determine which students are learning more quickly or slowly than normal
  • Intelligence professionals provide use a pattern of normal to inform assessments of future activity
  • Parents are familiar enough with their children’s behavior to know when something is wrong before it is visible to others or a confession is provided
  • Leaders who are truly leading WITH their team know when it is time to pull a member aside to find out why they are not performing at their established normal

If you really stop and think, we all have established a “profile of normal” for just about everything we observe and everyone with whom we interact on a routine basis. Some of us may even think we know what normal is on a given a subject before we have enough data points to establish a meaningful trend.

Establishing a profile of normal is important, and in many cases, it is important to reflect that profile. When the network is operating normally, there is less to worry about; when our health is normal, we can focus on living; and when our friends, family, and co-workers are operating per normal, we know how best to interact with them. In many cases, it is important that we reject the normal. Sometimes the established normal makes us want to be a little more weird than usual. Many times the normal becomes overly routine and boring. And often the normal is what leads us to irrelevance. Why not entertain the idea of embracing the weird?

I have always been fascinated by the weird. I may have operated in the parameters of normal, but I have always appreciated those who were less normal. As time goes on, I am continually reminded that the weird are the ones making a meaningful difference, they are the ones who seem to be enjoying life a little more than the rest, and they are the ones who establish the new normal. The weird frustrate the normal and the normal disappoint the weird quite often.

Let’s continue to live with such awareness that we recognize what normal is and let’s strive to find ourselves within the parameters of normal where it makes sense (e.g. health). But let’s care enough to color outside the lines, express our individuality, and ignore the normal whenever possible. Being described as normal is not necessarily a compliment. Let’s be weird and help others to follow our lead as we define a new normal within our sphere of influence…it’s OK to be weird, it’s more fun to be weird, and many times we have a responsibility to be weird.

  • Can you define normal?
  • Are you aware of things when they are abnormal?
  • In what circumstances do you prefer things being abnormal?