Rebel Learnings from a YamJam

Can anyone be a rebel, or do you have to be a special kind of person? A rebel's life is full of setbacks.

Moving mountains is not a spectator sport. If you see someone trying to make change at work and you support the idea, get in there and lend a hand, why don't you?

At work last Friday I hosted a YamJam on how to be a good corporate rebel at work. (We use Yammer as a collaboration platform and have regular group chats on many topics. And we call them YamJams.) The above are some of the statements made during the Jam or ideas that were conceived during our very excellent conversation.

It was interesting to me that folk from all demographics showed up for the Jam, from the newest worker to senior managers. We had well over 100 distinct postings during the hour, in addition to the many “likes." Although completely nonscientific, we ran a couple of polls during the YamJam. About 90% of the poll respondents identified themselves as corporate rebels or aspiring corporate rebels.  Another great quality of the YamJam was how much conversation there was among the rebels. Although I was the Jam host, often questions got answered without me.

The positive reaction to the topic leads me to think this is a technique any company could use to reach out to the rebels walking their hallways. Holding a chat open to all employees is not a bad way to get a sense of the rebel temperature of your workforce. But I don't recommend doing so unless you have some idea of what you want to do with the rebel energy you find.

Some of the other fun comments and questions during the chat:

Being a rebel is tiring. "It gets old." A rebel’s life is full of setbacks.

People wondered whether there might be some places in the firm that are better homes for rebels than others. That got me to thinking that rebel energy is often discipline-agnostic and maybe it could be deployed, like a SWAT team, from place to place in a company, wherever that new energy is needed.

We all agreed that an organization dominated by rebels might be a little too disruptive, although we thought entrepreneurs are natural rebels. This brought up a car metaphor for thinking about organizations: the brakes are the traditionalists; leaders are the steering wheels; the rebels are the accelerators.

Social networks and platforms are great assets for rebels in organizations because you can often share your ideas there without having to worry as much about hierarchy, etc.

First time you speak up doesn’t make you a rebel, but if you keep doing so in the face of disapproval or possible career penalty, then you’re definitely a rebel.

What should you do when a manager says: "I don't support you, but I can't stop you."  Any ideas?