It's one thing to realize that you are a rebel -- risk taking, curious, creative, unafraid to challenge assumptions. It's another thing to use those rebel qualities to make a difference at work.
So what do you do?
It's such a big, important question with so many possibilities. Some ideas to consider:
1. Create an informal rebel alliance, where people in the organization get together once a month after work to talk about positive ways to change the organization. Occasionally invite an open-minded creative exec to join you in thinking about new ways.
2. Become the organization's informal trendspotter, sharing monthly insights on emerging industry or professional trends and their potential implications for your organization. Rebels tend to see emerging patterns ahead of most, in fact we're often criticized for working too far ahead of other people. Use this talent to help others tune in faster to changes.
3. Learn how to host and facilitate meetings in new ways that allow for healthy dissent, frank conversations, and space for thinking out loud together. (I'm an especially big fan of the Art of Hosting.) Teach others in your organization how to host vs. run meetings, have the real conversations vs. the polite conversations. This one change can affect the culture in a big way, making it more "rebel, diverse idea friendly."
4. Develop an experiment budget: Suggest that the organization set aside a small budget for experiments in areas that could potentially provide big benefits for the organization. Invite people/teams to submit ideas to be considered for funded experiments. Think about crowdsourcing.
5. Position your new idea as experiment: Or position an idea you want to make happen as an experiment. This diffuses some of the fear and uncertainty that often prevents executives from approving new ideas. Couched as an experiment, a new idea often seems much less threatening.
6. Support another rebel: It's often lonely and frustrating being the rebel who is trying to create change. Consider supporting someone with a great idea who could benefit from your ideas, your encouragement, your help or simply your public acknowledgement that what they're doing is worthwhile.
7. Stay edgy: go to conferences, read books, follow people whose ideas fascinate you. Learn one scary thing a year. Rebels tend to be pattern makers, bringing ideas from different disciplines together in new ways to solve problems. If you don't get out enough, e.g., are totally sucked up by just your business your industry, you may lose your rebel power to see those patterns and unusual combinations.
8. Be a trusted sounding board: be the person who is willing to listen to people who are frustrated or are wrestling with a new idea or are just trying to figure out what's not working and what the possibilities might be. When people can think out loud with someone they trust, ideas often start to emerge. You don't need to fix or solve their conundrums, just ask open, honest questions that helps them think about the situation in new ways. And then listen. This is such a generous and helpful act, and so many important "ahas" emerge. A rebel executive friend and I have dinner once a month to help one another in this way. 30 minutes for her, 30 minutes for me. Some kind of wow emerges. Then we finish dinner and talk about politics, movies, and books.
9. Stop doing things that you believe are ineffective or unhelpful for the organization. Don't go to meetings about issues that are not relevant, or where you can't get or provide value. Don't use PowerPoint, have a conversation. Instead of the usual performance evaluation approach, create and use your professional manifesto to set goals and frame context for what you want to do and why it matters. Stop responding late night to urgent emails about non-urgent issues; take back your time. Don't write a 30 slide PowerPoint deck when a one-page summary with bullet points would be an easier, faster way for people to understand the issue.
10. Keep people informed: be the person who updates people about an issue important to you and them, and suggest what actions they can take.
11. Stop waiting for permission: Change happens when a few people get together and start doing the small things that lead to positive outcomes. Often quietly, under the radar. If you wait for approval or management to "model change," you're likely to never see anything happen.
What advice would you give to Sarah?
What do you do at work as a rebel that works?