A Little Bit of Rebel


Most rebels start small.

At the end of Richard Martin’s wonderful discussion of the power of rebel within organisations there is a reference to starting small. It reminded me that ‘from little things, big things grow’  

Many change agents start out in a small and quite compliant way. They only want to make a little change for the better. They see something that needs fixing and try to fix it. These rebels start out making change for the system. They want to make the system work just a little better.

Systems don’t like little changes. Systems push back. Small fixes are crushed.

At this point, many people seeking change stop discouraged. The rebels go on. Rebels move from a small change to making bigger changes to the system. They start to see that their small problem is a symptom and that changing the system is part of the solution. Now they want to make changes to the system.

Systems don’t like changing. Systems push back. Big changes are opposed.

Many first-time rebels stop at this point. They don’t like the ostracism, the opposition and the risk. Only the dedicated rebels go on. Now the rebels want to fundamentally change the way that the systems in the organisation handles change. They want their organisations to have a better culture, to be more responsive, to be more human and to pursue bigger and more important purposes than purely financial return. These rebels are working for a change of system.

Systems don’t like change. Systems push back. Transformative change is fought. 

The few remaining rebels just keep aiming bigger. Now they step outside the system and connect with others from other systems trying to make similar change. They start to work across organisations, industries and society to learn how to be more effective and more influential in creating responsive and human organisations.

These rebels are changing the world.


How do you help your rare and precious rebels grow faster?

  • Do you have a culture of continuous improvement based on external performance measures that helps your people start the journey of change?
  • Do you have the room for experimentation to try new approaches?
  • Do you have a culture that fosters challenge to the big systems and processes and that supports and rewards the rebels?
  • Do you take time to discuss the culture and systems that lie behind the symptomatic problems that you face repeatedly?
  • How do you connect and engage your rebels, internally and externally, to help them stay the distance in the face of opposition?

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