What Rebels Really Think: Poll Results from GovLoop’s NextGenGov Summit

Late last month I was a keynote speaker at GovLoop’s NextGen Summit. If you don’t know GovLoop, it’s the social network for government employees: federal, state, local. You can listen to a followup interview I did on being a government heretic and find a link to the speech here. During the talk I conducted several live polls of the audience (well over 500 I’m sure of which at least 150 answered every question.) on some key questions about being a rebel/innovator/heretic in government. You’ll recognize at least one of the questions as something we’ve asked here at RebelsatWork.

Here’s the first question about how you learned you were a rebel. What I find encouraging here is that most people learn before they have a horrible experience at work–good news. What is also interesting is that only 7% of those responding said they did not consider themselves rebels. Although the GovLoop audience trends, I’m sure, toward minor acts of rebellion, it’s still interesting how many believe there is a better way.

I also asked about why the audience thought rebels (innovators) fail. What I thought was interesting here where how few in the audience selected lack of funding. I would have thought that number might have been higher in a government audience. It is encouraging that so many believed that doing better is not a function of more money.

Finally came the question about what we can do to improve our chances of success. My choice of options was perhaps not the best and there may have been some anchoring effects in play as I asked this question toward the end of my talk.

The fact so many possible solutions got significant support tells me that there are many ways we could improve rebel outcomes.

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Diane Lucas

During my Master’s program, one book on the reading list was about Political Savvy, another about Emotional Intelligence. Many rebels fail to understand that they need support from others to make change happen. These concepts need to be taught earlier, so rebels understand how the world works and use it for their advantage – not allow it to be used against them.

Jeff Ribeira

Very interesting results Carmen. I’d say they’re pretty accurate for an informal survey. I feel the top responses are pretty similar to what I would have said.

The only response I would have thought would have had a higher percentage is “poor follow-through” in question 2. While communication is definitely a top issue, rebel or not, my observation has been that poor follow-through is a challenge that haunts many rebels/innovators/creatives at a much higher rate than other folk. I wouldn’t call it unique because everyone of course struggles with pushing projects to completion, but the intense dedication to and focus on ideas that is inherent to what great innovators do can at times make it difficult to visualize the end-product, and subsequently connect the dots to make the idea happen. Hence why partnerships between very idea/innovation-oriented and detail/process-oriented people are so successful – it’s a natural pairing.

Elizabeth Fischer Laurie

Ironically, rebelsatwork.com is blocked on my work computer. Looking forward to reading more at home Carmen, because I really enjoyed your speech at NextGen!

Bob McCall

I am surprised that one of the options in the responses to why rebels (innovators) fail wasn’t Management’s committment to the status quo/intranginence towards any change. Rebels are viewed as insurgents which are to be viewed with suspicion if not outright distrust and hostility. How many “rebellions” actually succeed. The aim of most rebellions is to replace those in power. That’s not something those in power are likely to support. Of course in the context of this article the aim of the rebel is to make a change in the organization to make it better, not to replace those in power. Nevertheless many of those people who you would need to support the idea will perceive it as a threat rather than something that should be supported.

Chris Cairns

As a rebel, finding the right senior management support for my ideas was key to successful execution. Persistence, too, of course.

Carmen A. Medina

I just realized, 6 months after the fact, that several people had commented on this blog post. So my apologies for getting back to you so late. First, thanks so much for the comments. On the comment by Bob McCall re his surprise that management attachment to status quo wasn’t a choice in the poll, I will grant you that is an important factor. I guess when I built the poll I thought that was such a given that I instead wanted to explore other factors, that Rebels at Work have some ability to control, that could be in play. But yes, attachment to the Status Quo by so many people is a huge roadblock. Sometimes I think there is a worldwide conspiracy for the preservation of the Status Quo. Like Jeff Ribeira, I too was surprised that poor follow-thru didn’t get more votes. I find this is often a challenge for rebels who often don’t excel at nuts-and-bolts execution. At least I would say that applied to me.