Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed – #ICBookClub review

May 2, 2020 at 2:21 pm

CIPR Inside committee members Helen Chown and Dan Holden share their thoughts from the April #ICBookClub online discussion featuring Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed.


It was a long meeting on a dark and dreary November last year. The IC team were reviewing the proofs of a report. “Love it” said the boss. We all nodded, mentally high fiving the end of the meeting and completing what had been a complex project.

As we were getting up, one lone voice, our industrial placement student said: “I’m sorry to chime in. I think the figures quoted in the summary aren’t quite right.”

She was correct.

We had been so blinded by getting this off the team to do list, we collectively missed a small but important typo. We’re still grateful to her for helping us avoid potential embarrassment in a critical document for our company.

It felt right to start with a story, as Matthew Syed’s Rebel Ideas is rich in storytelling. He uses it to make the point of the importance of diverse thinking and just how critical it is for leaders to create environments where colleagues feel secure to speak up.

As Syed points out – it can be all too easy to not speak up and go with the consensus in the room. He argues this can stifle idea generation and creativity.

Syed warns of the perils of a room full of like-minded people. The anecdotes he draws on show how concern for being that ‘pesky’ dissenting voice or challenging more senior colleagues can (quite literally) be fatal.

In the spirit of diverse voices, it’s totally appropriate that this blog is brought to you by the two of us. What did you make of our latest IC BookClub discussion Dan?


As Helen mentions, Rebel Ideas shows the power of storytelling through the very medium of storytelling and it really hits home the need for us to be more diverse in our professional thinking. It raised whether the word diversity has ended up as a nice to have, even though organisations know it must sit at the heart of everything and be a strategic part of the business.

In keeping with the book, there were some diverse thoughts and differences of opinion during the discussion. This was particularly about the use of storytelling. Some found this a helpful device that kept the reader interested. Leaving a story hanging, then returning to wrap up a point was seen as a device that could be a good tactic in talks and presentations. Other ‘rebels’ found that so much storytelling could be a bit jarring.

At the end of the session we asked our members to summarise Rebel Ideas in one tweet and here is what two our regular #ICBookClub followers thought:

Noel Armstrong: “If you’re interested in the power of diverse thinking and the science behind it, read Rebel Ideas. It offers fresh insights into the benefits that diversity brings to a myriad of challenges. Read it!”

Lauren Rowe: “Innovation does not take a genius, or a village; it takes a network of freely interacting minds. Says it all for me really.”

#ICBookClub is always a great evening, enabling anyone to join in via Twitter. Check out our upcoming dates here and join us in #ChangingTheConvo.

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay