Context, important for everyone, is even more important for creative outliers.

Because for us, it can be a more fluid and dynamic hard to cope with moving target.

A nicety of our shared online existence is we can look up context in six dictionaries to nail it down.  Here is what I found.

1) The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.

2) The parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning.

3) The interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs.

4) The parts of a written or spoken statement that precede or follow a specific word or passage, usually influencing its meaning or effect.

5) The set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc.

6) The situation within which something exists or happens, and that can help explain it.

Fortunately, they all say approximately the same thing.

To my mind, they are all variations on the first definition.

And one dictionary considers this word to be elementary.

I take issue with this because context is relativistic, nonlinear and time-varying. 

It is not the same for everyone.

It is not the same even for any of us all of the time.

Are you the same person at 6 AM Sunday morning and 6 PM Tuesday night?

Before or after sleeping, eating, lovemaking, making a breakthrough, or hitting an obstacle?

Other descriptors of context include point of view, reference frame and perspective, which do hint at the non-elementary nature of context.  

Why raise this issue at all? Because creative outliers create within some context which can vary greatly, at times from unconscious to conscious. When you speak, how much do you know about the intended listener?  How about when you write? Or design a website or a garden or a party? Does one size fit all? Hardly.

Why does this matter to a creative outlier attempting to become an adopted innovator? Well, if you would like your insights to be adopted, how you manifest them has a terrific impact. As a creative outlier, you have many choices about how to emanate your understandings and hopefully, you are consciously guided by context.

For example, are you a fan of PowerPoint to express yourself? I used to make glorious slide decks with what I thought were cool artistic transitions. And it turned out that only people like me agreed with that assessment, yet much of the time, we are addressing people not like us.

I bet some of you have also painfully learned some of these types of lessons when pitching ideas to someone who began interrupting almost as soon as you began. Some of the time, they could be just rude, and others of the time, you have completely misunderstood their context.  It is generally a good idea to find out, preferably prior to the meeting. Sometimes, even often, you can not anticipate the context. This is why most pitches fail.

So what can you do about context?  Do not take it for granted. Are you extremely clear about what your point of view or reference frame is and how different it may be from those you want and need to interact with? 

I may be an oddball, but I am amazed about how terrible many user interfaces are.  I guess they were not designed for someone like me. Or, how often do surveys ask you the questions you want to answer? In this increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, it feels to me like it is becoming increasingly difficult to develop consensus.

This is a good opportunity for us creative outliers to be very conscious and very adaptive, not unconscious and reactive. You may have thought you understood your neighbors growing up, but have they changed? How about your bosses and employees and clients and friends? It is natural to project your context upon others, but not necessarily accurate. What if the others are not conscious of their context?

The good news is as creative outliers, we have available more degrees of freedom in how we express ourselves than the middle of the bell curve people. It is a good time to be increasingly aware of context and what to do about it. It can not always be managed. Sometimes we need to manage ourselves to get along with it.

At some level, context is everything. Respect it greatly.