If I did book reviews, you would learn far too quickly my pathetic ratio of books read to ones completed. So I don't do book reviews - instead I'll review here what I learned from a new release: "Rebels at Work" by Lois Kelly & Carmen Medina (O'Reilly Media).

Full disclosure: Carmen has advised my work, coordinated informally on Big Ideas, co-presented with me at a conference, and indulged the occasional beer-fueled ramblings. Which is to say - we're friends, after a fashion. She is as generous and geniune as she appears, and she is simply a treasure to be around. I am honored by her friendship. Finally, I contributed a bio to the Rebels and Work page, and would like to believe I contributed (at most) a single sentence to this book.

Nevertheless, buy this book. At once an overview, a handbook, and even a summary chapter for managers who have the good fortune to employ rebels on their team. For the rebels - described by the authors as "for creating new, better ways to do things," this book is a guide to understanding why you fail, how to overcome obstacles (or know when to walk away), and how to navigate organizations. This last lesson is one that has come to me late in life. It comes after being fired from one organization for, well, not having this advice earlier in my career. (Know the signs of inappropriate emotion and dampen its ability to frustrate your cause.) It comes after my tenure at another organization, which led to a lunch where a trusted senior mentor advised me: "You should be a consultant, I'm not sure you would survive in a C-suite position." At the time, this was a fair assessment. And I can see now: the result of rebelling in ways that were not productive to the cause.

Rebels are passionate. They are driven. They are neither complainers nor whiners, but instead question relentlessly organizational practices that thwart the mission or optimize side agendas. In this book, Kelly and Medina provide case after case to support their construction of various bureaucractic types - which can be made into allies and how, and which to avoid. From chapters on how to manage (not avoid or seek) conflict, to communicating ideas and dealing with fear; this book belongs on every shelf.

We live in transitional times. 19th century organizational forms are brittle and some are crumbling. Embracing the rebels in your organization should be a measure of organizational health and survival. Conformity is not a virtue unto itself (neither is non-conformity, and the authors do great work detailing the difference between a rebel and a troublemaker). This book will help managers and organizational leaders understand how to embrace the passion and creativity rebels provide. It will help the rebels understand they are not alone, where they are tripping up (thanks again for the pages that made me cringe in self-realization), and how to succeed while remaining true to your nature as a future-oriented thinker. 

1 Comment