What Makes People Do Extraordinary Things?


What is the difference between Extraordinary and Excellent?

Excellence is about doing what everybody else is doing, but doing it better than those people. In the world of business, this is done by setting standards, clearly articulating your goals and defining the processes by which you will achieve your outcomes. All of this is done whilst operating within societal or business norms.

Extraordinary comes when you are operating outside of the ‘norm’. Once you find this, rather than progressing along a bell curve, you will be operating on an altogether different curve to everyone else.

How do you get to Extraordinary?

Within the innovation space, this difference is referred to as being between Exploitation and Exploration. The first being the continued development along a set line, whilst Exploration takes place in untapped areas of opportunity. Within a large company, you would often have different departments taking on these different roles.

In our brains, it is the difference between using the areas that are good at solving problems that we can see vs those that use our imagination to picture a new future. It is difficult to switch between using these two areas at speed – but it is the same thing you need to do if you want to get from Excellent to Extraordinary.

There is no path to the Extraordinary. You will be breaking new ground. You’re a pathfinder.

How do you break out of conformity?

The world survives because we conform on so many things. However, if you want to find the path to Extraordinary, through Innovation you have to be able to break away from the norms.

Often you are prompted to conform by fear. Fear of looking stupid, making a mistake or repercussions for example. As such, if you want to break through the norms to Extraordinary, you need to understand the fears that are holding you, your team or your stakeholders back and tackle them head on.

So what do I do next?

In order for your vision of a new future to be heard and appreciated by your audience, you need them to be in the headspace that encourages imagination, rather than being focussed on solving tasks.

When you’re Extraordinary, you’re redefining goals and redefining the means to get to them. Behaviours that help you to do this:

  • Questioning current paradigms
  • Finding ways to break existing ways of doing things
  • Asking how it can be done, not if
  • Happy to rewrite the rules
James Gadsby Peet


I've been in the digital industry for over 10 years and have worked across small and large charities, as well as my own freelance projects. I am now Director of Digital at the sector leading creative agency William Joseph. Having been at Cancer Research UK for the last four years, I have been able to work on high volume, high profile campaigns such as Race for Life, Dryathlon and the much-quoted #nomakeupselfie. In that time I helped drive forward the charity’s digital product and marketing capabilities to be some of the most respected and successful in the sector. I'm always excited to work with other organisations, share expertise and swap cat gifs. Give me a shout!

  • Maureen Absten

    Nutritional health must succeed as toxins have depleted soil so food nutrients .Please liquid organic nutrients, too many fake pills found in porta potties undissolved. High fiber ,filtered water & great care with intake.