Houdini Was A Rebel. But Was He Hireable? Maybe.

I’m a rebel. When I learn any group I’ve worked with has done something a certain way for a long duration of time, it has zero impact on me whatsoever. Because my thinking isn’t comfortable for many teams, I’ve wondered if I can ever make meaningful change. How can I better get others to keep up with my rebel talent?

In my interview with Harvard Business School professor and world-renown researcher, Francesca Gino, she explained how rebels like me can make meaningful impact in any organization and change a culture.

Harry Houdini

Gino is the author of Rebel Talent, which is one of the best books I’ve read in the last decade (seriously, you should buy it). In it, she describes how visionaries like Napolean and Houdini made an incredible impact, but there’s a problem. They might not be your organization’s first choice as an employee.

“If you are trying to run a company efficiently, someone like Houdini might not be your first choice for an employee. But when we look closer, we see that unlike Ford, but like Ford’s competitors, Houdini allowed his sense of wonder to guide his thinking. He may have lost a few teeth in the process, but he was always elevating his craft.” 

People fueled by rebel talent, like Houdini, are constantly trying to elevate their craft, but organizations are constantly favoring the status quo. So, how can rebels actually influence organizations that don’t want their style of change? Gino has a simple answer.

Skip To Francesca Gino’s Interview »
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How rebel talent can make real change

As a rebel, there are many times I feel very lonely in my efforts with various groups, and I’ve wondered how I can better influence teams to change, even when they don’t want to. “Most of us love the status quo” Gino told me. “We prefer to stay in comfort zones, rather than pushing for change. That’s where the lonely part comes in.” If you feel alone though Gino reminds us that rebel talent isn’t for naught. Rebels can be contagious and they don’t have to be senior leaders.

Book image of Rebel Talent by Francesca Gino
Buy Rebel Talent by Francesca Gino

“I have seen effective rebels at all levels. What is required is persistence and patience.” She told me. “Rebels have a lot of ideas coming to their mind, and they’re ready to push forward. There just needs to be a little more patience—because change is hard on people, especially when existing ways of working have been there for a very long time.

Those of us fueled by rebel talent need to understand that we are truly different. The modern workplace is made up of very different people that think in a way you can’t possibly understand. Even though rebels may be frustrated by others lack of action, those team members are likely equally frustrated by what they perceive as recklessness.

My eyes were opened widely on this topic when I met Paul Allen, founder of Ancestry.com. He eloquently explained just how different two amazing leaders can think. After I took the Strengths Finder assessment, I finally understood how my gears turn differently. I’m a classic activator. Today, he’s working on SOAR.com to unlock human potential.

Those fueled by rebel talent don’t have to stay frustrated. With persistence and patience, they will eventually influence change. Gino offers this last tid bit of hope, “as long as they keep their perspective and as long as they have a respectful approach to those that might not be as ready for the change ,they can be quite effective.”

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