This article is based around a story about NASA engineers in the 1980s, but touches on something that I feel that we know instinctively. While every company will say they welcome risk-takers and rulebreakers, the reality is very different.
It’s one of the reasons I work with my co-op colleagues in solidarity. We can do what others cannot.
There is psychological evidence that rebelliousness is essential for creativity. Harvard psychiatrist Albert Rothenberg spent more than five decades researching individuals who had made ground-breaking contributions to science, literature and the arts, seeking to understand what drove their creativity. As part of a broader research project that encompassed structured interviews, experimental studies and documentary analysis, Rothenberg interviewed 22 Nobel Laureates. He found that they were strongly emotionally driven by wanting to create something new, rather than extend current perspectives. He found they consciously saw things with a fresh mindset rather than blindly following established wisdom – two qualities that would seem to suggest a rebellious, rather than conformist, personality.