Book Review: Corporate Rebels By Joost Minnaar and Pim De Morree

Image result for corporate rebels bookJoost Minnaar and Pim De Morree, the corporate rebels who founded Corporate Rebels, have written a book, rightly called, you guessed it, Corporate Rebels.

I have been waiting for this book for quite a while. I have been an avid follower of the work of the Rebels on their website (just search for Corporate Rebels and you’ll find it) since it landed on the internet.

The rebel label is an apt one for these guys. They quit their safe, but frustrating, corporate jobs and set out on a learning mission to find out as much as possible about leaders and companies who are making work more fun and fulfilling. What they learned while on this mission is what makes up this book, and while the overt objective is to share the insights they gleaned, you will also find an underlying objective to recruit more rebels interested in removing the misery of so many people in so many workplaces. Consider me recruited because I gobbled this book up quickly.

The book begins with Minnaar and Morree leaving their jobs with trepidation and then, throwing caution to the wind with the support of their parents, trotting the globe to learn how innovative businesses are changing how people work. Some of the strategies they encountered are ambitious and perhaps too revolutionary for some while many are not so grand and can be realistically added to even the most traditional of organizations. The authors make it clear that they are not trying to create some kind of violent overthrow of everything and do not expect people to quit their jobs en masse as a sign of revolt. Rather, they advise people to do what they can from where they are to lead new thinking and new ways of doing business whether that is entire companies or just a small department or team.

The book is built around eight moves or evolutionary steps that the Rebels have found to be necessary to making work more fun.

  1. From profit to purpose and values
  2. From hierarchical pyramid to network of teams
  3. From directive to supportive leadership
  4. From plan and predict to experiment and adapt
  5. From rules and control to freedom and trust
  6. From centralized to distributed authority
  7. From secrecy to radical transparency
  8. From job descriptions to talent and mastery

From the outset when the authors describe their decision in 2015 to set out on their journey, to the multiple stories dotting the globe, the book holds your interest and challenges how you think about work and workplaces. Throughout the book, I found so many worthwhile highlights that I just have to share a few favorites.

Regarding the fundamental purpose of work: “Why do we accept that work is just about making money? Why do we agree to work for a boss whose only goal is to get richer, and for shareholders who don’t look beyond the next quarter? … What if, instead of accepting this sort of situation, we spent our time on work that has a positive impact? How nice it would be to work for organizations that believe in positive change.”

On putting too much emphasis on profit: “Focusing on maximizing profits promotes morbid short-term thinking. Managers are pushed by stakeholders to take decisions that ensure a swift return on investment, often at the expense of everything and everyone. This is not good for the world and is demotivating.”

“Profit is important, of course. It funds the pursuit of purpose, but should be the means, not the end. Revenue for a company is like oxygen for a human: necessary to stay alive, but not the reason for living.”

On the problem of too many meetings: “Imagine if bureaucracy was kept to the absolute minimum with no wasted days of boring, frustrating meetings and no more doing things because your boss says so. Imagine how much more time you would have to do useful work and keep the client happy.”

On the power of purpose: “An inspiring mission allows teams to work as one with everyone playing their part (an important source of motivation).”

On leadership: “No leader will ever be truly productive without the people to make their vision a reality. Leaders without committed followers are doomed to fail.”

On putting too much stock in the highest-ranking officer’s thoughts on things: “Make decisions based on content, not the bringer of the content.”

On the need to remove the tyranny of over-control: “Burn those fat folders of policy documentation, stop creating rules for the three percenters, and encourage common sense. If you don’t trust your employees, why did you hire them in the first place?”

On treating employees as adults: “If companies were to treat their employees as responsible adults, what would the workplace look like?”

And finally, in a nod to real gist of the whole book, Minnaar and Morree give us this…

“Sorry for the inconvenience – we’re trying to change the world.”

I think that says it all. That is exactly what these two are attempting. They want to positively change our workplaces so that future generations can live happier, more inspired, and healthier lives. A great mission and a worthwhile pursuit. If you’re a rebel, even a closet rebel, read this book and get some ideas on how you can make changes, even if only small ones, that make lives better. A worthwhile pursuit indeed.

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