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Book synthesis

Cultivate your inner rebel

Rebels, for so long a source of fear, now come highly rated. They’re committed, innovative, and inclusive, and are at the cutting edge of change. A healthy dose of positive rebellion can be good both for your team and your organization.

Rebels are, by definition, people who find it difficult to follow instructions. This type of behavior is not the same as nihilism or mass destruction. On the contrary, it carries the promise of doing things differently, which is worth considering at a time when cast-iron rules and procedures carved in stone have become obsolete. Rebellion goes hand-in-hand with innovation, foresight, inclusion, and commitment, and it can be an effective way of tackling many of the problems facing us today. The future, according to Francesca Gino, may well belong to constructive rebels.  

Why dissent is a profitable approach 

The idea of rebellion provokes ambivalent reactions. Some rebels are admired and praised to the skies for their daring and creativity  think of Steve Jobs, for example. But their subversive potential can be unnerving: rebels are seen as lawless pirates, pariahs in the making, who are often rejected, and rightly so, when they use their talents to back a bad cause. Such was the case of Bernard Madoff, the genius, self-taught creator of one of the most inventive scams in the history of investment companies. But it is possible to break rules honestly and constructively, argues Gino, and youre even advised to do just that to enhance your reputation. The author notes that the main obstacle to positive dissent in an organization is the fear that it will hinder career advancement. But thats wrong: non-aligned behavior can boost your assertiveness, credibility, and leadership skills. A study conducted by Gino among several hundred employees in US companies showed that attitudes deemed rebellious (i.e., expressing open disagreement, not conforming to management expectations, ignoring dress codes, etc.) make you more confident, increase recognition of your skills, and are even seen as signs of status and power. The consequence  and the icing on the cake  is that colleagues more readily follow a rebel leader. 

Shake up old habits to re-motivate your people 

Rebels arent worried about shattering the established framework and rules. In an age when bore-out syndrome has become widespread, novelty is an asset for motivating your teams. It increases job satisfaction and raises performance. Gino argues that the value of staying within your comfort zone is overestimated and does not bring the expected benefits. On the contrary, research in psychology shows that our brains are stimulated by surprises and new tasks. Managers at Pals Sudden Service, a fast-food burger chain in Tennessee and Southern Virginia, only tell their employees what their days tasks will be on the morning they arrive at work.

Excerpt from Business Digest N°300, October 2019

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Françoise Tollet
Published by Françoise Tollet
She spent 12 years in industry, working for Bolloré Technologies, among others. She co-founded Business Digest in 1992 and has been running the company since 1998. And she took the Internet plunge in 1996, even before coming on board as part of the BD team.