So, we know that sometimes independent thinking is an asset. It's a good thing, and it is celebrated with slogans like Apple's "Think Different" motto. I'm talking about the people who think outside the box, who don't necessarily conform to preconceived ideas about how things "should" be done. They are unconventional thinkers and sometimes get into trouble, but they have brilliant insights because they see things no one else can see and they say things no one else dares to say. I'll call them Mavericks.
And then there's another group. These are people who hold up meetings or classroom work with pointless questions (typically of a what-if nature) seemingly designed to show the questioner's superior intelligence. They are the ones who throw up objections to any planned action because they've thought of something that could go wrong. They sometimes get in trouble, or never advance very far because they annoy people; but often they manage to stay a step ahead of the law and game the system by dazzling higher-ups with their spurious brilliance. I'll call them the Malcontents. They are a diverse group but they all have one thing in common: EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM BELIEVES THEY'RE A 'MAVERICK'.
So, here's the question: How do you tell the two groups apart? I mean, not just a hunch or intuition, but some objective measure that you can pin down and discuss with other people. And how do you - as a subordinate, peer, supervisor, or manager, deal with this problem?