Start of a Corporate Spring?

People call you an instigator, a protagonist, a renegade, a pirate, a mercenary, a rebel, or an empowered employee. We know you for what you really are: a change agent who sees speed, change and innovation as the new corporate norm. We know because we are you. We know the challenges – and the excitement – of driving change in an incumbent or start-up company. We know what it means to go for “The Innovator’s Risk”

We call ourselves “Corporate Rebels United”.

The concept of Corporate Rebels is not new. Many people have written about or have alluded to it:

John Hagel referred to the concept of the “Empowered Employee” in one of his recent Forbes posts.

The key answer that defines the post-digital enterprise is to shift attention from the cost side to the value side. Rather than treating employees as cost items that need to be managed wherever possible, why not view them as assets capable of delivering ever-increasing value to the marketplace? This is a profound shift in focus. For one thing, it moves us from a game of diminishing returns to an opportunity for increasing returns. There is little, if any, limit to the additional value that people can deliver if given the appropriate tools and skill development.


The post-digital divide will force them to choose sides – on the side of employee empowerment, or on the side of tactical cost cutting, job cutting, and diminishing returns. If not, the divide will choose for them.

But a Corporate Rebel has something extra. It is about daring to stick out your neck. It is about taking personal leadership.

Nilofer Merchant differentiated between a rebel and a leader

So perhaps we could use a more neutral word: protagonist. A protagonist is a principal champion of a cause or program or action. The protagonist does not wait for permission to lead, innovate, or strategize. They do what is right for the firm, without regard to status. Their goal is to do what’s good for the whole.

Lois Kelly (@loiskelly) from Foghound and Mike Maney (@the_spinmd) from Alcatel-Lucent also discussed recently whether the word “rebel” is not too negative. Mike made some very deep reflections why the hard dividing line between good and bad rebels does not always make sense.

Argument aside, we believe that – positioned well – the word “corporate rebel” exactly reflects who we are.

The aim of “Corporate Rebels United” is to create a global community of extraordinary corporate change agents. It is not an academic exercise or research effort. It’s something deeply actionable.

Our mission is to build the most amazing community of corporate rebels worldwide to ensure that true change and innovation happens virally

The initial idea for Corporate Rebels United emerged when innovation teams of Alcatel-Lucent and Swift met and worked closely in the context of Swift’s Innotribe program. We were excited by the exchange of ideas and energy that emerged when like-minded folks came together. And that got us thinking about some big “what if’s”:

  • What if we could create a tribe of the best and most exceptional corporate rebels worldwide – people like us, people like you?
  • What if we could start leveraging each other’s ideas, energy and best practices?
  • What if we could design a movement to support each other when the going gets tough?
  • What if we could cross-fertilize and infect our organizations with the change-virus from within?

We want to identify exceptional people worldwide that already have an impressive impact on change and innovation in their corporations, no matter in what field or industry. The movers and the shakers. The do-ers of today. The ones who take initiative. Who create deep change from within. People who energize their organizations by leading from their true selves. The crazy ones. The rebels. The troublemakers. The ones who see things differently, and who are crazy enough to think they can change the world. People like you.

Our plan is to start small – 15 founding rebels cross-industry – because we want to ensure quality and resilience in the initial starters group. We’d like to get the spirit right from the start. We have scheduled a kickoff call on March 30, 2012 with 15 founding rebels. We will follow that call with an off-site meeting where we’ll jointly build a set of agreed upon principles and a longer-term action plan to open and expand Corporate Rebels United to a wider audience.

A lot of “getting the spirit right” was already included in one of my latest prezi’s on the “Soul of Innovation”. Without any publicity, this prezi already generated more than 3,000 hits in less than one month. We seem to have touched something that resonates. Some of it was withheld for my TEDxNewWallStreet talk last week in Mountain-View. Innovation is more than a set of tools and processes. Innovation is an attitude with tribal energy!

For viewing this prezi, turn audio “on”, as I experimented a lot with sound and visual landscapes.

Somewhere halfway in that prezi, you will discover the Rebels Manifesto in the Pirates Treasure Map

Rebels Manifesto


Challenging the status quo

Breaking the rules

Saying the unsaid

Spreading the innovation virus

Seeding Tribal energy

With No fear

With a cause to do good

Leading by Being from our True Selves

Going after the un-named quality


What exactly Corporate Rebels United will do is the essence of our discussion at our kick-off call and event. Initial ideas include:

  • We want to build an action-driven community.
  • We want to create an incredible energy bomb of corporate change.
  • We aim for a very high level of integrity and authenticity. We want this to be morally, intellectually, and artistically right
  • We want to re-enforce the energy of known rebels in a non-zero sum community.
  • We want to identify and unleash the energy from the hidden rebels and the hidden pearls in our organizations and give them a voice
  • We want to create exchange programs between our corporations
  • We want to have deep positive business impact on the corporations and organizations that host and pay our salaries.
  • We want to create a culture in our corporations where change is the norm.
  • We want to measure the progress and propulsionwe make/create:
    • Individually
    • The folks we influence
    • The corporate change heartbeat
  • We want to evolve our corporations into places of constant change, resilience, responsiveness, reflection and vibrant energy.
  • We want to create a place for play, fun, rock, and rich personal expression

At the start, Corporate Rebels United will be a closed community: we’re looking for atypical people who make us go WOW!

Because they act from their true self and without fear, and make amazing change happen within their organizations and the ecosystems they are part of.

People with a moral, architectural, almost artistic integrity. People with a BIG innovation heart in the right place.

We’re looking for people who inspire us as human beings. With open mind, open heart, and open will.

Like Seth Godin said in his last book (We are all Weird):

“they have to be a bit weird”.

We plan to go full-steam as from our Kick-Off call on 30 March 2012, right after the start of the 2012 spring. Our ambition is to be able to shine and radiate as a strong community with first results by end October – Mid November, not co-incidentally the busy conference season with Innotribe at SibosTechonomyDefrag and Blur.

Like Bill Gates wanted to see a PC on every desktop, and Eric Schmidt wants to see an (Android) mobile in every pocket, we want to see a corporate rebel in every company. That’s a lot of corporate rebels 😉

Of course, I am not Bill Gates, nor Eric Schmidt. But there is still enough room for a normal human being like me to create significant impact. And although I am 55 years old now,  I still want to change the world. And yes – at 55 – I still would like to instigate a Corporate Spring. There is no age for Corporate Rebels.

We jump and want to feel the daily adrenaline of being and coaching Corporate Rebels every day of our life.

As we get started up, get some inspiration on our curated site for Corporate Rebels United on Scoop-it.

If you are interested to join Corporate Rebels United, leave a note and some argumentation on why you’d like to join in the comments section of this blog post. And/or let us know what you can bring to the table to make this a big success.

As the Corporate Rebels United get up-to-speed, they will start blogging on and we will soon open our website at

Let’s 21 March 2012 be the start of our Corporate Spring! Because we believe it matters to infect our organizations with “change-as-the-norm” from the bottom-up!

@petervan of the Innotribe team

Laura Merling (@magicmerl) and Mike Maney (@the_spinmd)


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