They question everything, cause chaos – and might just steer your team to its very best work. Meet the workplace rebel…
Some workplaces embrace them – though arguably more find them a management challenge. I’m talking about those brilliantly awkward people who cause chaos in the workplace because they are hell-bent on questioning the status quo and trying something different.
These rebels can be found in all works of life – think of the accolades that Tarantino won back when Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction were released; and of course Banksy who this week has literally torn up the rule book (and the painting) by doing the seemingly unthinkable.
For as long as there have been rules, there have been rebels, and the British Museum is celebrating a bunch of mavericks from history in a new exhibition called I Object: Ian Hislop’s Search For Dissent. It runs between now and January 20 and has been co-curated by the Have I Got News For You mainstay.
All manner of objects that show disruptive rebellious types at work are on display. Since dissent is not something that is necessarily encouraged in your average office brainstorm, but is necessary for creativity this is a subject I thought worth exploring further.
Workplace rebels… in the church
One of my favourite objects in the exhibition is a 16th Century salt pot made after the English Reformation which banned all acts of Roman Catholic worship. Known as the Stonyhurst Salt, it is a wildly ornate piece that looks like an especially fancy salt cellar – and indeed can be innocently passed around the table as such – but there’s more to it than meets the eye, as the thing was actually made from the recycled fragments of old religious artefacts.
There are also hidden Catholic images, too, and the British Museum blog puts forward the idea that the rubies which adorn it may represent the blood of Christ. There are so many communications campaigns now that play on subverting our ideas – it put me in mind of the recent Diesel campaign that blatantly subverted its own label publicly and launched a fake goods store in New York – selling unwitting customers a limited edition range of hoodies and jeans – ahead of Fashion week.
In the knock-off store in which sweatshirts and t-shirts are stamped “Deisel”, with the ‘reveal’ made later.
Is your office too safe?
How can you not be impressed by subversion like that? And isn’t it part of our role when we’re being creative to be rebellious when coming up with ideas? Whilst a whole office of rebellion would be impossible, then taking the deliberate position of ‘chief dissenter’ deliberately at the right time can be powerful. It’s the role of Edward De Bono’s ‘black hatted thinker’.
Rebellion was one of the elements I identified when I wrote my book, In Your Creative Element. I interviewed Rupert and Claire Callender for my section about rebellion – they are the husband and wife team behind Devon-based The Green Funeral Company. Our chat was inspiring. Passionate people who were so hacked off with the status quo that they wanted to put a firecracker under the existing funeral model.
“We want to challenge absolutely f****** everything about the funeral industry! When we first meet you, we are unlikely to be wearing suits.
We do not have a fleet of hearses and limousines. We do not employ bearers. We do not consider faux-Victoriana and a mournful expression to be an assurance of respect and dignity. We have buried Generals and Lords, but we approach each funeral as unique.” Rupert and Claire Callender
Their approach was dripping with guts and rebellion, traits that many great creative people seem to have in spades. In music, the rebellious ones have all the best tunes. In business, rebellious creatives come up with campaigns and ideas that can change the world.
So instead of running away from rebellion – why not deliberately wear that hat yourself? Rebellious ideas exist somewhere within all of us…
4 ways to bring rebellion into the workplace
- Ask yourself what “rules” in your industry you could challenge or break in such a way as to have a positive effect or initiate progressive change?
- Ask yourself what’s the worst that could happen if a “rebellious” idea of yours came to fruition? Once you’ve imagined the worst case scenario, you might perhaps push your original idea to be a bit more daring.
- Have a five-minutes of “creative anarchy” the next time you meet to discuss ideas. Do any of the team’s wildest, craziest, most rebellious ideas feature a germ of something workable?
- Give someone the role of ‘creative dissenter’ or workplace rebel and have a group take on this role when ideas are ready for critique. Use the dissent to re-build the idea. But don’t try to do this at the same time as the ideas are just being formed. Give your ideas a little bit of time in the sun first.
Here at Now Go Create we are obsessed with creativity, and what makes one idea stand out from another to deliver effective change. If you’re interested in unpicking ideas then join one of our creativity training workshops or pick up a copy of Claire’s book In Your Creative Element.