The Value of Rebel Talent

Should you be a rebel in the workplace?

Summary
Transcript

In this backstage interview from Leadercast Women 2019, Francesca Gino, a researcher and professor for Harvard Business School, explains what it means to be a rebel in the workplace and why it’s valuable. 

“‘Rebel talent’ [refers to] people who break rules, not just for the sake of breaking rules, but they break rules that hold them and others back in a way that is rather constructive for the organization,” shares Francesca. “[Rebels are] people who approach existing ways of working with curiosity and then come up with innovative ways of dealing with those situations differently.”

Are you taking a rebellious approach to your problem-solving? Watch the video to hear examples of rebel talent at work.

What I mean by "rebel talent” is people who break rules, not just for the sake of breaking rules, but they break rules that hold them and others back in a way that is rather constructive for the organization. And I've had the chance to study these people across a variety of industries, across a variety of organizations in different parts of the world. And what I was surprised by is the amount of positive change that they create around them. And it does take courage, and it doesn't come naturally.

So part of the reason why I love the word, being a “rebel,” is that it means fighting against some tendencies that we all have because we are human. One of the people who inspired me to take on this project of studying rebels more carefully is an Italian chef. His name is Massimo Bottura. And what he did was to go to traditional Italian dishes and completely reinvent them. And he came up with a very creative set of dishes and a restaurant that turned out to be the best restaurant in the world in 2016. And what I love about this story is that it takes a lot of courage to question traditional Italian dishes.

But second, we cherish our old ways, especially when it comes to recipes that have been passed on for generations. So it was refreshing to see a person who went to that context, with a lot of courage and a lot of curiosity. So he started asking questions, “Why is it that we cook the dish that way? Maybe it made sense 20 years ago, but not today.”

Those are the rebels. People who approach existing ways of working with curiosity. And then come up with innovative ways of dealing with those situations differently. When I think about effective rebels, they are people who don't take things for granted. They ask questions about their usual way of working. They pay attention to the possibility that things could be different.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino is an award-winning researcher and teacher, and a tenured professor at Harvard Business School. Her consulting and speaking clients include Bacardi, Akamai, Disney, Goldman Sachs, Honeywell, Novartis, P&G and branch...

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