Break..Transform…Create. These three words define the role rebels have in change. Organizations do everything hey can to avoid sudden or drastic change. This is fine when sales are strong and when consistency is important for success. But when sales decline or buying habits change, these organizations often find themselves failing and struggle to change. Sears died because they could not find a way to compete with Amazon, bookstores died because Amazon offered more choice at a lower price, Polaroid and Kodak died because they underestimated the popularity and simplicity of digital photography and the railroads never found a way to compete with the speed and convenience of the airplane.
Amazon and other startups have thrived because they did looked at the world differently and did not have a tradition to change or a pattern to break. A few traditional firms such as IBM have in the past been able to break traditional and thrive, but only because they either brought in an external “rebel” or because they had a corporate policy of embracing rebels.
Why Do We Need Rebels?
Rebels challenge accepted beliefs. They drive innovation and change. They ask questions no one has thought to ask before. And they are not afraid to break tradition and do what others say is not possible. A modern example is Elon Musk who is generally regarded as brilliant but somewhat crazy, certainly an overextended businessman, and a bit of a showman. Yet he has almost alone made the electric car popular and exciting. He is challenging ideas about transportation and has developed reusable rockets - something NASA was not able to do.
As recruiters we need to help our organizations see the value of rebels and have enough flexibility in our hiring criteria to hire them even though they will not meet many of our usual requirements. Ask yourself if you would have hired Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, both college dropouts with nothing very distinguishing about them. Even though biographers have jazzed up their backgrounds, both were from rather nondescript families and were very much like others in their schools. They probably would have looked liked failures to most recruiters and hiring managers.
Finding rebels is not hard, but hiring them, embracing them, and listening to their ideas is very hard.