innovation | August 19, 2013

Rebel Rules: Alissa Quart On Unconventional Paths To Success

"Even if you don’t consider yourself an outsider or a rebel, [Republic Of Outsiders by] Alissa Quart has several lessons for creative work," Fast Company writes, "particularly when it comes to making art outside a heavily commercial system." For the book, and her work for The New York Times, Newsweek, and O Magazine, Quart interviewed hundreds of mavericks. Reporting on people with unusual talents, personalities, and disabilities gave her a fresh perspective on success. She interviewed those who are working outside of traditional structures to achieve their goals, and, shows us how their "outsider" qualities and processes can influence corporations and be the catalyst for positive change.

Here are some lessons from the book that you can apply to your own organization:

1) Become a “Cultural Entrepreneur”
  • Quart interviewed a number of people who include themselves in the "Mad Pride" movement; people who reject societal evaluations of themselves and normative language used to describe them. Quart refers to this as a rebel rule, noting that "outsiders can change the language people use to describe them and thereby change the mainstream a little." While playing by the defined rules is sometimes necessary, some of the best innovations and most creative work can come from redefining the established model. And, from redefining where you fit into that model.

2) Work Outside Of The System
  • "The end of traditional moviemaking, financing, and viewing is underway," Quart wrote in Reuters recently. Due to budgetary concerns or subject matter, certain filmmakers have been pursuing novel methods of getting their projects made and distributed. Director Spike Lee, for example, turned to the crowd-funding website Kickstarter to get his newest venture off the ground. The lesson to be learned here is this: The traditional gatekeepers are no longer your only vessel for success. Take a grassroots approach, Quart suggests, by calling upon people in your network to approach a project in a unique way and through non-traditional channels. She also advises giving everyone a sense of ownership on the project, no matter how small their role. This makes everyone feel more appreciated and drives them to give their all to a project.

3) Cultural Assimilation Is Not Always Ideal
  • While yes, certain social norms must be followed in particular situations, there's no law that says everyone needs to look, act, work, create, etc., in exactly the same way. "While we might not always be able to avoid convention [in every situation], it’s worth asking ourselves what we really want, instead of what others want from us," Quart says. 

In her keynotes, Alissa Quart tells the tales of the uncommon people she profiled in Republic Of Outsiders. Quart moves audiences to find inspiration in new places and look for unexpected innovators everywhere. If you want to shake things up at your company and learn the benefits of learning from rebels, book speaker Alissa Quart by contacting The Lavin Agency.