Rebel in the Making

I’ve never been a rebel (aside from the obligatory teenage stint). Every aspect of my upbringing taught me to respect authority just because they were older or held a position of power, and my personality fit right in - I was molded to be polite, agreeable, and obedient. I learned from authority both at school and at home: “this is what you need to know because this is how it’s always been done and because I told you so and I know best.”


That’s why NPR’s Hidden Brain Podcast’s episode, Rebel With A Cause, resonated with me. In this episode, Francesca Gino, Harvard Professor and author of the book Rebel Talent: Why It Pays To Break The Rules At Work And In Life, discusses the idea that defying norms leads to innovation and that letting go of tradition can lead to creative thinking and consequently new and better ways to solve problems. I’ve struggled the most to accomplish things when I wasn’t being told what to do.


Here are my ‘Key Takeaways’ from Rebel With A Cause:

  • Rebels aren’t trouble makers. They rebel against rules that stifle creativity and hold people back and deliver their message in a constructive way
  • Have a learning mindset; think like a beginner. It is important to maintain a level of curiosity and intellectual humility as we gain experience. By focusing on what we have yet to learn and not on what we already know, we are able to think creatively about solving problems. Captain Sully landed an airplane in the Hudson because he had a learning mindset! Experienced guitar players, when asked to play with their opposite hand, were able to come up with much more helpful advice for others on how to play
  • Different perspectives are valuable. It’s easy to go unchallenged and surround ourselves with people who think like us. People with expertise in ‘unrelated’ areas bring new perspectives, a key to solving tough problems
  • Embrace the discomfort. Breaking rules and having your thoughts challenged is uncomfortable. Do not shy away from this discomfort; build confidence and performance by learning from these moments


At GXG, we are not only challenged to become more ‘rebellious’, questioning the status quo in pursuit of continuous improvement, but we also have the opportunity to witness how this affects some of the world’s greatest leaders and organizations. Our clients realize that in order to grow both personally and professionally, one must have a learning mindset and consistently rebel against traditional thinking. ‘Authority’ on a subject matter takes ever-elusive time to build. We sometimes refer to our Connections as experts, but often use the term ‘operator’ and ‘practitioner’ because their expertise is still growing and developing. Our experts share their wisdom with our clients because they are also lifelong learners who know what it feels like to be a beginner. They’ve been there before and are still there on a number of issues. They also know that they too will learn from speaking with our clients. They’ll learn what others are struggling with, they’ll gather different perspectives on problems and technology as they engage. As is mentioned in the podcast


 “expertise is a problem if you’re looking at it as knowing the answer”


Serendipitously, during a Connection Call today, one of our experts (in reference to technology enablers) said that “we need industry leaders like you who rethink the way things get done so that we have good use cases to lead with.”


I’m incredibly thankful to be surrounded by people who challenge me to think differently and to continue to learn while helping our clients to do the same.


I recommend listening to Hidden Brain, where Shankar Vidantham does a fantastic job of detailing the hidden forces that drive human behavior, and also reading Francesca Gino’s Rebel With A Cause, as it will challenge and inspire you to foster a culture of lifelong learning.


Every month we collect the latest insights from our research and client work to share.