I'm looking for a word that means someone or something that has a tendency to go against convention, but only when effective.

This would eliminate words like unconventional, unorthodox, contrarian, or nonconformist that are defined by their lack of adherence to convention.

I'm also not looking for very general words like heuristic, sagacious, or innovative which, in some manner, could be applied to what I'm asking for.

As a final note, an idiomatic phrase like out of the box would not apply, because it has been defined by not being in a box or adhering to tradition.

Does such a word exist, if so it would be greatly appreciated!I know this is a very specific request, but I'm looking for words to define my company's character, so precision is of the utmost importance.

Below is a hypothetical statement this would apply to: "Although Object Oriented Programming is the standard vehicle for teaching programming, Programming Company X isn't so convinced, in fact according to research and scientific reasoning, it seems like functional programming is the better approach--despite it's deviance from the convention."

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    Please can you give an example of the kind of thing that this person would refuse to conform to? Would they be a selective non-believer of parts of their religion? Would they cheat at cards but only when money is not involved? At the moment it is wide-open. A scenario and sentence with a blank in it would give us some context to work with. Thanks Oct 17, 2015 at 22:10
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    Trendsetting. Maverick.
    – Joe Dark
    Oct 17, 2015 at 22:25
  • @chaslyfromUK Thank you for the comment, I've appended a scenario. Oct 17, 2015 at 23:27
  • Well, he's at least an opportunist.
    – user116032
    Jan 16, 2016 at 17:11
  • Oh I can't stop myself: hipster
    – lux
    Mar 16, 2016 at 23:02

8 Answers 8


Consider eclectic.

Eclectic adjective
1 Deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources: He is very eclectic and his mix of abilities is so different from the common concept of an artist.
2 (Eclectic) Philosophy Denoting or belonging to a class of ancient philosophers who did not belong to or found any recognized school of thought but selected doctrines from various schools of thought.

The idea is that the person 'picks and chooses', selecting things based on internal rather than external reasons.




: adjective suggestive of one that blazes a trail; pioneering or innovative: trailblazing research; a trailblazing new technique.

The American Heritage® Dictionary


trailbreaker: n. (Chiefly AmEng) a trailblazer.

The American Heritage® Dictionary

I cannot imagine how your list of influential Americans omitted the late Milton Friedman. Friedman did more than any other twentieth-century American to make the United States prosperous—more than any president, business leader, or technologist. He was a trailbreaking economist, winning the Nobel Prize in 1976. . The Atlantic


Iconoclast is a positive term for someone who challenges an established orthodoxy.

But it sounds more like you're looking for someone who doesn't drink the kool-aid, since your example is of someone who refuses to abandon an old way in response to new trends, rather than someone who establishes a new way in opposition to old conventions.


"Hipster". Nowadays, it's more usual to call someone a hipster if they do things differently from the common folks. For instance, hipsters drink their coffee before it's cool because hey don't conform to the idea of drinking it when it's cold.

  • Please read the question properly - it asks for a word to describe a company, not a person!
    – TrevorD
    May 3, 2016 at 9:53
  • "Hipsters" will do.
    – Alan
    May 3, 2016 at 17:27

It seems like pragmatist would fit

Definition of pragmatism:

character or conduct that emphasizes practicality.


For example, you could say that your company follows a pragmatic approach to standard conventions.


Kevin. Another suggestion would be radical.

radical (noun) - a person who advocates thorough or complete political or social reform; a member of a political party or part of a party pursuing such aims. (Oxford Dictionaries)


Stop right there.

Your own word "effective" is a great word that suggests success without debating the pros or cons of the approach taken. Sometimes, a traditional approach is effective; and, at other times a non-traditional or obscure method is effective. Modifiers can strengthen the term somewhat.

I realize that this answer isn't profound; but, it is most effective. (applause)


Besides some usual adjectives such as "creative", "innovative", "original", "alternative", "inventive" or "atypical", the idiom off the beaten track may fit.

It means you took a different path verses the one most people would take. It can also imply that you think differently, out of the ordinary, not in a usual way.

Adherence to conventions is "orthodoxy", then consider heterodox (or unorthodox), i.e. not in accordance with established or accepted doctrines or opinions, especially in theology.

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