October 30, 2018

Unprecedented Conversation: Rebel Talent

On September 24, 2018, Women@Goodwin hosted Dr. Francesca Gino from Harvard Business School to share insights from her new book Rebel Talent.

Although rebels tend to have a bad reputation, Dr. Gino’s book highlights the positive characteristics of rebels, and the importance of their unconventional outlooks. Instead of clinging to what is safe and familiar, and falling back on routines and tradition, rebels defy the status quo. They are masters of innovation and reinvention, and they have a lot to teach us. 

Dr. Gino’s presentation centered around the five characteristics rebels share:

  • Authenticity
  • Seeking the novel and unfamiliar
  • Curiosity
  • Open-mindedness
  • Embracing diversity by leveraging differences

Moving Out of your Comfort Zone

Throughout the conversation Dr. Gino shared multiple stories and real life examples to support her research on rebels. Stories captivated the audience and subjects ranged from a basketball coach helping a young girl sing the national anthem on stage when she forgot the words, to an Italian restaurant owner growing his business from the unknown to world renown, to Dr. Gino’s own experience taking improv comedy classes with her husband where they both experienced being outside of their comfort zones. Building on this point Dr. Gino took the audience through a series of interactive exercises, allowing them to feel less comfortable, as that is how innovation and new findings are often reached.


Shifting Attention from Weaknesses to Strengths

While most people focus on their own weaknesses, Dr. Gino explained how real rebels shift attention to their strengths. In a business example she cited that entrepreneurs are three times more likely to get funding from venture capitalist for business ideas in their pitches than non-entrepreneurs. She used this as an example to show the audience how authenticity helps us persist through challenges. Those with an entrepreneurial spirit are not scared to break rules in a constructive way to make positive change.


Embracing Curiosity

In today’s automated culture, curiosity can be hard to find. Dr. Gino looks to her three children under the age of five as great examples of the wonder and curiosity we’re all born with, which peaks between the ages of four to five, then dwindles as we grow older. Even when a person starts a new job they begin with a high level of curiosity, but after the initiation period of six to eight months, curiosity drops. Rebels, on the other hand, keep curiosity alive and do the same for those surrounding them.

Intuit is a prime example of an organization which values and promotes curious minds. Among the many awards the company offers its employees, each year it hosts a companywide “Failure Award Ceremony” for exploration that did not lead to a new product, but did bring the most valuable learnings for the organization. Dr. Gino says companies which create a climate where intelligent failures are supported because they lead to learnings should be praised for embracing the “rebels” among us.


Dr. Gino has spent more than a decade studying rebels at organizations around the world, from high-end boutiques in Italy’s fashion capital, to the World’s Best Restaurant, to a thriving fast food chain, to an award-winning computer animation studio. In her work, she has identified leaders and employees who exemplify “rebel talent,” and whose examples we can all learn to embrace. Whether you want to inspire others to action, build a business, or build more meaningful relationships, Rebel Talent will show you how to succeed — by breaking all the rules.