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When he wasn’t creating visionary works of art, Michelangelo got off some pretty good lines. Sculpture, the Italian Renaissance master said, is a process whereby the artist releases an ideal figure from a block of stone. Insights from a sixteenth-century workshop might seem an awkward fit for a twenty-first-century workplace. But not if you’re thinking like a rebel.

All of us possess ideal forms — what I call rebel talents. The challenge is to sculpt our jobs to bring out the very best of our abilities. Just as important, we must look for others who know how to do the same—or are open to learning.

The rebels you want on your team are constructive rule-breakers. They have different interests, skill sets, and philosophies, but five common talents unite them.

First, look for employees who have a talent for novelty. Rather than always falling back on the familiar, they welcome the learning experience that comes with new challenges. Second, rebels have a talent for curiosity, approaching the world with a sense of wonder. Perspective is another strength: mindful of their own blind spots, rebels stay open to other ways of seeing, doing, and leading.

Rebels insist on diversity, rejecting stereotypes and inherited social roles in favor of people and situations that help them leverage the power of different worldviews and backgrounds. Finally, rebels have a talent for authenticity. They don’t fall in line or parrot the words and actions of others. They raise their own authentic voices and make unique contributions to the team’s success.

A few years ago, social scientist Francesca Gino was browsing the shelves at a bookstore when she came across an unusual-looking book in the cooking section: Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef by Massimo Bottura.

The recipes in it were playful, quirky — and improbable. Snails were paired with coffee sauce, veal tongue with charcoal powder. Francesca, who is Italian, says remixing classic recipes like this is a kind of heresy in Italian cooking.

"We really cherish the old way," she says.

But this chef — one of the most influential in the world — couldn't resist circling back to one, big question: Why do we have to follow these rules?

It's the kind of question Gino loves. A professor at Harvard Business School, she has spent much of her career studying non-conformists; specifically, people who break the rules, and end up in trouble. But now, standing in the bookstore, she wondered whether letting go of norms and traditions can lead to the most sublime examples of creative thinking.

How can we understand the minds of successful rule-breakers? What are their secrets? And how can we discover our own rebel talent?

"I think we really need to shift our thinking," says Gino. "Rebels are people who break rules that should be broken. They break rules that hold them and others back, and their way of rule breaking is constructive rather than destructive. It creates positive change."

In these turbulent times—when competition is fierce, when the world is divided—the future belongs to the rebel. Search out and cultivate these talents, and you and your team will prosper.

Original post on LinkedIn

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