I have been on a bit of a renaissance journey over the past 4-5 years. Nearly all of my life I have been assigned the moniker “rebellious” in various situations in my life. I have been told I was “difficult to manage” by previous superiors in the workplace. I’ve always taken some of that feedback on board as a means to try and improve myself, but always felt it had a bit of a malicious tone to it instead of a helpful one. What I discovered? I am more creative than I gave myself credit for.


I have learned that creativity almost always happens outside the boundaries of conformity. Those who have a proclivity towards conformity often feel threatened, offended or irritated by those who actually enjoy dancing outside the prescriptive lines drawn by conformity. Creativity is an act of rebellion on some level. Now I realize that the reason I was “difficult to manage” was because I should have been led by that person, rather than attempted to be managed…punished for lack of conformity, whatever.


rebellionInnovation is rooted in creativity and innovation is what pushes the competitive advantage for companies. There has been a ton of research on what makes up the creative process, so it can be replicated, scaled, etc. In the situations where I thrived the most was when I was given a bit of latitude to be a bit rebellious; not in a disrespectful way, but as a sanctioned non-conformist. It was in those environments where I have done my best work and added the most value. This was true as a traditional employee as well as in running my own company.


I posit that, instead of finding new ways to develop processes, leadership should be looking for the areas where non-conformity can be unleashed within their organizations. Instead of trying to industrialize the creative process (is that even possible?), perhaps have strategically selected environments that facilitate creativity.


Creativity is a continuum and organizations have people who reside in various places on that continuum. I am nearly a 50/50 split between creativity and analytical type thinking. It depends on the situation, my mood, my level of comfort with or knowledge of the issue/task and a host of other things. It’s not neat and packaged, nor is it easily defined or explained. It is fluid, abstract and has a definite impact on the bottom line. Human-centric businesses are comfortable with abstract and they let that ambiguity become a strength, instead of feeling threatened by it.


I would love to hear some of your experiences and your thoughts on this. This has been my experience. What has been yours?

  • GG

    Hi, i have had similar experience. Always the dreamer at school and university, and an introvert, i found myself questioning the education world, universities and medicine (my particular specialty). Because I always felt out of the loop and confined by the system, i assumed it was me being lazy or not worthy so took ages to fully see my career develop. Only when i had a couple of mentors who saw my potential, did i start to believe in myself. I have been incredibly innovative and now in my 50s, am confident enough to challenge the bean counters, the traditionalists and those whose future orientation is only tomorrow and whose modus operandi is “steady as she goes” and traditionalist. I despair that the control merchants and micromanagers seem to get themselves to positions of positional power yet fail to see the potential for their own engrandiosement if they only trusted what visionaries and lateral thinkers could bring them? We don’t want gratitude, fame, positional power…just the recognition that we are passionate about things that are blatantly obvious to us, and our portfolios demonstrate we were right all the time, in retrospect…yet still the traditionalists cannot trust our vision. Nice to hear your experience and agree with all you say.

  • Thanks for sharing your personal experience Gordon!

  • Hi William,

    Great content! I notice you haven’t issued any recent blogs. What topics have you been investigating in your recent research?

    I am gingerly entering the personal development sphere. I happened across your Feb 2013 posting on the stages of grief as it relates to change. I am curious of your experience in road-mapping or guiding and fostering creative rebellion and change within established technical/analytical organizations? I am attempting to implement a grassroots mentoring scheme within my organization.

    Best regards,

    Jesse Corrigan
    Jan 2016

  • Thanks for your comment Jesse. Sorry for the immense delay in replying. I have been working on some product development, so I have been slack in updating the blog. I will most likely write a new post in the coming weeks.

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  • Loved this one. I was reading something the other day about how people who don’t have children are sometimes looked upon with disgust because they don’t adhere to strict social norms. This sort of touched on that idea (although I have kids, and I love them dearly). But you look at any great leader, and you’re going to see some degree of non-conformity. The best and the boldest figure out (or instinctively know) the formula for operating outside of the constraints that restrict everyone else. Something for ambitious people to consider.