Review: Rebel Ideas

Matthew Syed Rebel Ideas

Rebel Ideas
The power of diverse thinking

Matthew Sayed
Genre: Business book

In a nutshell:

Diverse teams are more likely to be innovative – but only if they’re truly diverse and you let everyone have a say.


In more detail:

There are many reasons why people make rubbish decisions. Sometimes it’s because they don’t know what they don’t know. Sometimes it’s because they defer to leaders and perceived wisdom. Sometimes communication is lacking.

So to make better decisions, learn what gets in the way. Find out what your subconscious biases are and put in measures to combat them. Create a culture that rewards people for speaking up. If you think something sounds wrong, don’t just go with the herd. Oh, and learn to communicate better.

While you’re at it, know that innovation comes when you get people with different specialisms to come together and share ideas – so make sure this can happen too.

Is there anything new in this book?

No. It feels like a copy-paste job, packaged up and called “Rebel Ideas” – which is a good name for a book. But as a dodgy second-hand car dealer might say, it’s a “cut, shut and respray”.

At one point the book goes into great detail about the 1996 failed Everest expedition that killed eight people. Syed says all current theories about what went wrong that day on the world’s highest mountain are incorrect – and in fact, the expedition had such disastrous results because of communication problems. Syed fails to explain how he – a sports journalist (and champion table tennis player) turned consultant – would have such insight into what happened at nearly 30,000ft during one of the most horrendous storms mountaineers have faced. But you do get the sense he’s seen a couple of films on the topic.

Is it worth it?

If you haven’t read any Daniel Kahneman, Dan Ariely, Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis, Rory Sutherland, Richard Thaler or any of the myriad research on diversity and creativity, this book will string it all together for you, punctuated with anecdotes that have also appeared in a number of other books.

It’s written in the style of Malcolm Gladwell and will arm you with some factoids to throw around in your next meeting.

Any tips?

If you’re listening to it on Audible, you may want to turn the speed up to 1.25x.