About the Author

Chitra Anand

Chitra Anand is an award-winning communications and marketing executive with over twenty years' experience in the technology industry. She has spent time as the head of communications for Microsoft Canada, director of marketing at Telus Corporation, and director of operations at OpenText. She lives in Toronto.

Books by this Author
The Greenhouse Approach

The Greenhouse Approach

Cultivating Intrapreneurship in Companies and Organizations
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Excerpt

Planting the Seeds of Rebellion

“There’s a rebel lying deep in my soul.” — Clint Eastwood

In order to have true innovation — to really break through and todisrupt and see things in a radically different light — rules must be broken.

My guess is right now you might be inclined to toss this book defiantly across the room in disbelief. “We need to break rules? What kind of crazy advice is that? It will be chaos!”

Remember what we said about rules. It’s basically the same with first principles versus assumptions: we need both, but we need much more of one and much less of the other. What I want to do in this chapter is urge you to rethink the way you and your company do things; I want you to challenge your own assumptions. I want you to be your own rebel; I want you to be your own disruptor.

Of course, if you are like most people, your first response will be resistance. A simple fact is that we tend to be okay with the status quo. And we will accommodate the status quo as long as we can. When we were children at school there was always at least one kid who refused to behave. “You’re making it difficult for all the other children!” warned the teacher. Here’s the thing: for whatever reason, that kid saw the world differently. They also saw their own role in the world differently. They didn’t care about obeying the rules or complying with an agenda. Isn’t that why we call them “rebels”?

Here’s a question that underscores everything that we will be discussing, not only in this chapter but throughout The Greeenhouse Approach: When it comes to breaking rules, who wins and who loses? Another perspective on this question might be thinking about the difference between a rebellion and a mutiny. Here’s a hint: one can be led and directed, the other can’t.

Salt.
It’s a simple commodity known (and readily available) to us all. We sprinkle it on foods to bring out their flavours. Some of us use salt to preserve foods, and many of us try not to eat too much of it.

For most people today, that’s where the salt connection ends.

But salt is symbolic to Indians. It is a symbol of freedom and independence.

Salt was once a highly valued substance. Roman soldiers were sometimes paid in salt rather than gold. (He wasn’t worth his salt.) The word “salary” comes from the Latin word for “salt.”

During the nineteenth century, India was under the British Raj (British Rule), and Indian nationals were severely oppressed. The primary objective of the Raj? To export cheap raw materials from India to England. To do this, the Raj imposed unfair laws on the native Indian population, many of whom were treated cruelly, imprisoned, and died of starvation.

To prevent salt smuggling and to collect customs on tobacco, sugar, and other commodities, the Raj constructed a four-thousand-kilometre wall basically down the centre of the county. Known as the “Inland Customs Line,” the wall was three metres high and four metres thick. It was constructed from materials like thorny bushes, stakes, and prickly plum branches and was designed to be impenetrable.

For the enslaved Indians, this wall was a visible and humiliating symbol of the oppression of the British Raj. It stood for ten years, until 1879, when it was decided it posed too great a barrier to travel and trade; maintenance costs, too, proved exorbitantly high.

The removal of the wall, however, failed to address the core problem of the oppression of India’s enormous population. Indians were prevented from collecting or selling salt, for instance, a staple in the Indian diet. The Salt Act of 1882 required Indians to buy salt only from the British (and, of course, the commodity was heavily taxed, preventing most citizens from being able to afford it). Okay. What does any of this have to do with business and innovation?

Gandhi: The Rebel of Passive Resistance Mahatma Gandhi was a great man. He was the leader of the independence movement that liberated India from British rule. Most astonishingly, he achieved this through nonviolent means, encouraging acts of mass civil disobedience.

One of the most famous examples of these was the Salt March.

In 1930, Mahatma Gandhi made a bold statement that would lead to the liberation of India. His Salt March saw him (and tens of thousands of followers) march 240 kilometres to the ocean. The goal was to simply pick up a handful of salt in defiance of the Salt Act.

Gandhi and sixty thousand others were arrested in this peaceful protest, but Gandhi was a force to be reckoned with. The mass civil disobedience led by Gandhi continued after his imprisonment and it continued until he and the viceroy of India were able to come to an agreement that would see Gandhi travel to London to be given a voice at a conference on the future of India. Gandhi was acknowledged by the British as a force it could neither ignore nor overwhelm. Gandhi’s strategy of peaceful resistance changed history, and he would become an inspiration for other human rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela.

Their struggles are an incredibly powerful lesson in how commitment to first principles, and thinking differently about the power of the status quo can be liberating. An adversary is never so powerful as to be invincible — especially when the adversary is no farther away than our own assumptions or habits. The key is being a creative disruptor. Like Coco Chanel.

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