Be a rebel, question everything!

How an obnoxious personality trait can fuel creativity and innovation
Reading Time: 5 min

This article is a part of the Battery003 issue: Where do great ideas come from?

Conformist: a person who conforms to accepted behaviour or established practices
Contrarian: a person who opposes or rejects popular opinion

Are you a conformist or a contrarian? Compliant or disobedient? Foot soldier or rebel? Nice guy or (slightly) obnoxious?

If you are constantly questioning everything, then you are the latter, a contrarian. Congratulations, you might not have any friends left but you have a really awesome tool for creativity and innovation!

I have a question…

Here is how it works. Just find a nice problem to solve and then trigger 
the contrarian knee jerk reaction:

“it is impossible!” 
“No, it’s not!”
“I’m listening”

Throw any statement to a contrarian and you will get an alternative viewpoint back, and with new viewpoints come new opportunities and solutions. Suddenly the impossible can become both realistic and doable.

If you are a contrarian you will probably not need any instructions. 
If you’re not , no problem, just pretend and start questioning everything!

Here are my favorite triggers to disagree

It is true because I said so!

You can trust me, I am a professional. Unfortunately I am also probably wrong. Most of us are, at least some of the time, we just don’t know it yet.

If an authority says something that doesn’t make sense, should you just accept it? If it is a question that doesn’t matter, sure, no harm done. But if it feels important, then definitely. Either you are calling out BS or you are about to learn something.

The history is full of authorities that were wrong and people who believed them, so let’s not give them anything for free!

It is true because everyone agrees!

We are social creatures, we want to be a part of a group. Questioning the tribe puts yourself on the line, disturbs the order, so let’s avoid any conflicts. Oh, and then we’re lazy too.

If the truth stands on shaky ground it doesn’t take many questions to make it fall apart and make room for better ideas. That’s what friends/colleagues are for, right?

The majority rules!

The problem with majorities is that even when they are right they are wrong, just ask the minority. And a solution that 40% hates is really not a solution.

In every discussion there is always another way of looking at it, an alternative viewpoint from someone that might not even be there. Use your contrarian super powers and swap your needs and wants with someone else’s.

The majority doesn’t need one more voice, but who does?

I believe what you believe!


A discussion where everyone is in agreement is a weird dance:

“Trump is bad”
“Yeah, he’s really, really bad”
“Mhm, he is sooo bad that I will post something on social media”
“Great idea! If you do that I will for sure like it!”

When we agree with the group it is almost impossible to stay objective, everything sounds perfectly reasonable. I mean, we are just stating the obvious, right? We can say just about anything, we will not be questioned.  All ideas are amplified and reinforced until they become dogma, impossible to question.

American politics is the obvious example at the moment, but it is everywhere, social media, education, research, news, economics, marketing, venture capital, international relations.

Echo echo echo…

Nothing ever changes in an echo chamber. There is no opportunity to grow and learn, it is an intellectual wasteland where no creativity and innovation can thrive.

If you ever find yourself in an echo chamber, make some noise and enjoy the chaos!

Make some noise!

I am a Believer!

Whenever reality gets a little ovewhelming it is tempting to buy into a pre-packaged set of ideas. It could aim to “explain it all” like politics and religion, or it could be for a specific niche, examples from my world are Design Thinking, Agile, Lean Six Sigma.

Big or small, they all have one thing in common, they are all wrong.

They are a subset of reality, a model cleaned up of all the stuff that doesn’t fit in. It is a nice package, but it is a simplification, incomplete, not the real thing. If we mistake the model for the truth, then we are essentially blind, living life like a workhorse with the shades on.

The shades filter reality to make sure that what we see fits into the model. If we saw the full picture we might realize that the model didn’t make much sense.

So let’s take off the blinds, you are not a freaking horse!

I am a horse

The easiest person to fool…

…is ourselves.

The human mind is excellent in finding patterns, even if there are none. We think we have it figured out, it all makes sense, we put on the blinds and off we go into the abyss.

Without questioning ourselves all other questions just become a waste of time. So be ruthless!

A personal note

It took some time before I found an outlet for this obnoxious personality trait. I started my career as a music producer for commercials, not much rebellion there. It wasn’t until I founded a tech innovation company with some friends that it started to pay off. It turned out that questioning everything was a pretty good foundation for innovation.

We developed a unique concept for e-commerce, realized that the technologies and platforms for building it were ancient, bug prone and expensive, developed several ground breaking patented technologies to solve that, realized that no one undersood what we were talking about and that we were at least 5 years too early, and eventually changed direction.


There is always another solution to a problem and you are for sure not gonna see it from where you are standing!

We will never find a solution if we accept things as they seem. Yeah I know, there are things that cannot be changed, but probably much fewer than we think since we do not question them.

Impossible is just the starting point! Question everything!

Obnoxious personality trait turned into profitable career.

This article is a part of the Battery003 issue: Where do great ideas come from?

Are you a rebel?


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