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Learning from the Fringe: Speaker Alissa Quart on Rebels and Innovation
Innovation | September 05, 2013

Learning from the Fringe: Speaker Alissa Quart on Rebels and Innovation

Fringe culture is nothing new. But what truly defines someone as an outsider? As innovation speaker Alissa Quart tells The Takeaway, the division between mainstream and outsider can be a murky one. "What often happens is that a bit of somebody's idea gets scraped off and the most assimilable elements of a given movement or a given style gets taken by the mainstream," she explains, "and then the people who actually created it to begin with are still left behind." That leaves an undefined line between outsider and insider; part of their ideology is embraced by the masses, but not in its entirety. In fact, Quart says she even put the subjects in her book, Republic Of Outsiders, to an "outsider" test. She asked them whether they could remain on the fringe of culture for a full year. As it turns out, it was a harder test to pass than she anticipated.

Take the case of chef David Lee, for example. When Quart first interviewed him, his idea to make grain-based meat alternatives was pretty "far out there." But because culture shifted so quickly, and "vegan meat" products eventually became relatively mainstream, Lee's ideas suddenly became less extreme. Like many of the other "rebels" profiled in her book, Lee's outsider ideas were inspired by a "passionate moment" that altered his life philosophy. For Lee, a visit to a chicken farm sparked his fringe philosophy. Despite it sometimes being complicated to differentiate outsiders from insiders, there was one thing that all of Quart's characters had in common. "They live philosophy," she explains. "They live an idea." It's their strict adherence to this philosophy (whether it eventually becomes mainstream or not) that makes them rebels, dreamers, and outsiders. And, it's this out-of-the-box thinking that can be a real asset to innovation.

In her keynotes, Alissa Quart shares the stories of the uncommon people she profiled in Republic Of Outsiders. Taking inspiration from their strong will and out-of-the-box ideology, she urges audiences to look for unexpected innovators everywhere. If you're looking to shake things up at your company and discover how you can benefit from the free thinking of rebels, contact The Lavin Agency to book speaker Alissa Quart.
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