Rebels, Corporate Culture and Daring to Make a Difference

23 Apr 2013

Rebels Foghound: “Is your Corporate Culture: Open door policy, closed lip reality?”

There are a few speakers from Kevin’s feedback from the IHI Conference Improve Quality, Reduce Costs, Save Lives who have struck a chord for me for different reasons. Some for personal reasons, some for business reasons and some for client value. I’m still working my way through links to websites and enjoying being distracted by a number of refreshingly different views of the world.  One website that did spark particular interest, as it created a completely different lens for me in looking at corporate culture and change, Foghound –

Foghound describes itself as a creative outsider engaged usually by rebels and thinkers on the inside of organisations, seeking change. There is an abundance of copy referencing rebels and their stories, characteristics of good versus bad rebels and why rebels in organisations create great value if you can recognise and support, even go out of your way to balance your team with a rebel or two?

Essentially, rebels are driven by convictions and values, have a sense of being able to create change, are action oriented, create a sense of hope, are optimistic in future challenge, engage and believe in others. “Good Rebel” characteristics include: mission – focussed, passionate, generate energy, attract, possibilities, socialise opportunities, pinpoint a course, believe, change rules, social

Growth and change in any system or organisation requires specific ingredients to succeed. Foghound states that the essentials are:

  1. Safe Culture
  2. Clear Vision
  3. Rebel Thinkers

 Safe Corporate Culture

This is the culture where management invites and accepts different points of view. There is an Open communication approach where management wants to hear your view and employees sense it.

Organisational silence = shutting off ideas

Safe cultures are those that: Don’t shoot the messenger; create a safe climate of trust, where it is safe to speak and where input is valued.

Do you have a clear strategic vision?

Vision is critical to success. Vision needs to be clearly communicated and led with clear focus. Failure to do so will impede growth. Foghound says, without a clear vision, it is:

Does your culture reward healthy conflict and / or honest conversation?

The old story of,” it’s the way we do things around here”. Rebels are outspoken and honest about challenging the status quo.  Another way to describe a rebel, is of course, change agent. The downside of rebels, is that rebel communication can be viewed as criticism, or not be well received in a corporate culture of silence or where there is fear of criticism or risk taking, or, on the other hand, rebel characteristics may be just plain bad. Foghound gives the examples used in the table below, although, they have a much longer listing.

Bad Rebel Good Rebel
Break rules Change rules
Complain Create
Me-focussed Mission-focussed

Some good rebels may need your support in order to improve their influence. They may need encouragement to:

  1. Show how their idea will help achieve the vision and goals
  2. Find allies
  3. Be positive – What will work vs What doesn’t, approach
  4. Ask questions
  5. Know when to quit  (Even if it was a great idea)

Reflections on your corporate culture

  1. Look into the Corporate Mirror – is the culture truly open to new perspectives and does leadership demonstrate willingness and capability to act on those perspectives
  2. Is your culture averse to rebels? Does it create obstacles or opportunities for those people who have the courage to challenge assumptions
  3. If people are our most valuable resource, how are you creating new ways to tap into their creativity?  How do you make sure that diverse perspectives are heard?
  4. Do your corporate values and beliefs encourage behaviours needed to innovate?
  5. If quickly adopting to opportunities and changes is important, how do you attract and support people who see new ways and are not afraid to change
  6. Do you know where your rebels are, are they understood and valued
  7. How do you help rebels provide positive change vs disruptive dissent