Rebel Ideas Matthew Syed book review

Book club | 08.11.2019

Rebel Ideas – Matthew Syed

Through a mix of research and case studies ranging from the CIA to Mount Everest, Matthew Syed’s ‘Rebel Ideas‘ lifts the lid on the power of diverse thinking – shifting the perception of diversity as a politically correct tick box exercise to a critical science that undoubtedly strengthens any individual, team or organisation.

What is Rebel Ideas all about?

Rebel Ideas explores cognitive diversity; differences in perspective, insights, experiences and thinking styles. It’s packed with undeniable arguments for the necessity of diverse thinking in order to solve complex problems, from business challenges like new product innovations or strategy development to systemic issues like climate change.

Who is it for? 

There’s something for everyone. From a curious individual to managers of teams and projects, you’ll be inspired to rethink how you work.

Light bulb moments 

There were lots of lightbulb moments in every chapter, but here are my top three:

We like people like us

We instinctively gravitate towards people like us with similar experiences and thinking styles. This may feel more comfortable and safer, but does it give us a wide enough view of the problems we work on and the different approaches we can take? When we only work with ‘people like us’ we’re blind to unknown possibilities because we’re limited to our own experiences.

Take a look at the teams you work in and consider if they are too homogeneous. If they are, think about the different voices you need to invite into the conversation to open new doors that you didn’t even know existed.

Making work more human

This is a hot topic! More and more companies are trying to create more human workplaces by looking at things like flexible working hours. But really, the most brilliant, interesting and human thing about us is our differences.

To really make work more human we need to look at personalising how we work, through things like job crafting and strengths profiling. With diverse teams in place, can we really expect everyone to work in the same way?

“Cultures that encourage new ideas, foster dissent and have strong networks through rebel ideas can flow, innovate faster than those held back by cultures of intellectual conformity.”

Matthew Syed

Create the right culture

There are many things organisations can do to harness the power of diverse thinking, but there are also lots of things that they currently do that undermines it completely. We need to craft a culture built on trust. A safe environment that encourages new ideas, fosters honest disagreements and grows vast networks. That means challenging harmful hierarchy, removing rigid processes and helping breakdown unconscious bias.

Would you like to read Rebel Ideas?

Once we’ve finished reading a book, we share the headlines and then send it to anyone who wants to read it. Once you’re done, either let it live forever on your bookshelf or share it with someone new.

As always, if you’d like to read this book, email We’ll pop it in the post to the first person who asks.

Rebel Ideas Matthew Syed book review