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  • Writer's pictureaxisaberdeen

The Power of Diversity of Thought: A Review of Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed

Who should read it: Anyone who wants to learn about diversity of thought and why it matters.

Why you should read it: Its an accessible an entertaining read for anyone, especially those struggling to articulate why diversity is so important to our workplaces and our society.

Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking by Matthew Syed has been waiting on my virtual bookshelf for years. Not from a lack of interest but a lack of time and being on the virtual bookshelf rather than the physical meant I didn’t get those regular visual prompts. When it appeared on the AXIS Network 12-days of Christmas list, it was now or never. It did not disappoint. 


Syed makes an excellent case for organisations to take diversity seriously; it’s more than just characteristics, it’s cognitive diversity.  When I was reading this book, I was reminded of a meme from years ago (that I wish I had saved) showing four people of different protected characteristics with the caption stating if you’re all from the same Ivy League university, from the same neighbourhood and a Starbuck’s chugging, workaholic, your demographic diversity isn't so relevant, you’re not that diverse in terms of the way you think. It was while reading this book that the true meaning of this meme fell into place. 


Syed navigates the reader through a journey of storytelling starting with the CIA’s failure to predict the 9/11 attacks, a consequence of homogeneous thinking, to the challenges of hierarchy and the consequences of a non-inclusive culture, a more relatable, cautionary tale for day-to-day business. These stories perfectly made the case for taking a step beyond just demographic characteristics. Teams made up of varied lived experiences, and people who feel comfortable challenging the status quo can result in 'seeing round corners' and balanced thinking, breaking perspective blindness. This can lead to improved decision-making, efficiencies and innovation. 


The book discusses how the most successful people embrace change and think differently; how individuals can expand their cognitive diversity. The author helps out the reader by providing some tips: 

  • Read widely

  • Explore different cultures

  • Become fluent in many languages

  • Embrace failure, seeing it as an opportunity to reflect, learn and grow

  • Challenge our own beliefs, pushing the boundaries of our comfort zone

  • Take calculated risks


If we do this, we start to think differently, we become rebels. Rebels help us to find solutions to the world’s most challenging problems by thinking outside of the box.  As members of the energy sector, we are primed to be the most critical rebels of our generation. Time to start the rebellion.

SYED, M. (2021) Rebel ideas: The power of thinking differently. S.l.: JOHN MURRAY PUBLISHERS LT.



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