aKeep, Front Page, Gig Mindset, Organizational Change

Six Books about Rebels, Gig Mindsetters and Positive Deviants

These books offer different lenses on how diversity of mindset and challenging the status quo brings benefits for people and for organizations. My book – The Gig Mindset Advantage: A Bold New Breed – is part of a this flow. If you know of some I have missed, please point them out using the Contact page and I’ll update the information.

The text below lets you zoom in on the books that interest you the most.

I have listed the books in reverse chronological order. Discover each by clicking on the + to see the detail.

2022 – The Art of Insubordination – How to Dissent and Defy Effectively

In 2022, Todd B. Kashdan wrote The Art of Insubordination – How to Dissent and Defy Effectively. This is one of the best books out there about rebelling. Kashdan says, “Principled insubordination is my name for a rebellious bent on contributing to society.” It is divided into three parts: In Praise of Insubordination, The Non-Conformist’s Cookbook and Harnessing Disobedience.

Based on research, this book offers practical advice in the simple, well-written Recipe Steps that appear throughout the book. They are action-oriented and include short explanations of why they are effective. For example:, quoting directly from

  1. Devote energy to establishing common bonds with fellow group members, supporting group norms, and adding to the positive group identity. You gain what social scientists refer to as “idiosyncrasy credits.” You can “spend” this cultural capital on social support and a fair hearing.
  2. Signal your courage. Principled insubordinates can alter perceptions by publicizing the personal sacrifices they made in bucking the system. Of course, don’t go overboard, as that will backfire.
  3. Don’t expect to dazzle everyone right away with your non-conformist idea. Initial reactions to a new idea are usually neither positive nor negative, but ambivalent. If as a rebel you instill enough uncertainty about conventional wisdom, your audience might feel impelled to give your idea a fair shot.

Perhaps the most important “big idea” highlighted in the book, near the end: “We must dedicate ourselves to raising a new generation of youth who feel emboldened to disagree, defy, and deviate from problematic norms and standards for the sake of progress.”

I highly recommend reading The Art of Insubordination.

2021 – The Gig Mindset Advantage – A Bold New Breed of Employee

n 2021, I wrote The Gig Mindset Advantage: A Bold New Breed of Employee. The gig mindsetter – an employee with a free-lance mindset – challenges traditional thinking and ways of working in order to make the organization more resilient and successful. From an individual viewpoint, gig mindsetters have a better work-life balance and are in better control of their destiny in our volatile age. The work was based on a global survey of 300 people around the world self-assessing on a spectrum from traditional mindset to gig mindset for 8 traits: motivation, roles & skills, openness, autonomy, questioning, awareness, networking and advancement.

I also conducted 31 hour-long interviews with people from different countries to go into detail about their work, challenges and successes or failures. The book includes six case studies developed specifically for the book with these organizations: Merck KGaA Darmstadt, Air Liquide, Sanofi, BlueShoreFinancial, a global commodity company, and Nishith Desai Associates (a law firm headquartered in India).

Topics covered include building proactive resilience, opening minds and organizations, investing in the movers, defining a perpetual balance, and owning your personal strategy.

The book includes questions for discussion throughout, to help readers reflect and organize actions in their own organizations

I will share feedback to my book from Art Kleiner, author of The Age of Heretics: A History of the Radical Thinkers Who Reinvented Corporate Management, profiled below. He put his finger on an underlying dimension I had not consciously felt until he pointed it out. Art wrote to me, “A real focused achievement. In a way, the basic problem is not the lack of a gig mindset, but the way people internalize fear of others – to the extent that it becomes habitual. I know that’s obvious, but when I read the book, I felt like you’re addressing the reader’s fears in new ways, each page different from the one before, fear after fear after fear…  That made it sing.”

I was interviewed on the Innovation Show by Aidan McCullen https://theinnovationshow.io/?s=jane+mcconnell+

You can read more about the book here:  https://www.netjmc.com/the-gig-mindset-advantage-home/

and see the associated podcast episodes here: https://boldnewbreed.com/explore-the-bold-new-breed-episodes/

2019 – Rare Breed: A Guide to Success for the Defiant, Dangerous, and Different

In 2019 Sunny Bonnell and Ashleigh Hansberger wrote Rare Breed: A Guide to Success for the Defiant, Dangerous, and Different. This work differs from the others on my list in that the rare breed represents a strong individual identity and rebellion is perceived as “an act of war”.

They write “As a rebel, you will meet resistance, but you look forward to it. Rebellion is an act of war. The established order always counterpunches and usually wears brass knuckles.”. The authors, leaders of a branding company, explain their focus: “We turned our attention not just to branding, but to leadership and identified a connection between the spirit of the person at the helm of a company and the brand experience that company created for its customers. The virtues (or vices) of that person inevitably made the company thrive, turn sideways, or fall apart.” Their real-life references are interesting to read as they write about the seven vices/virtues: Rebellious, audacious, obsessed, hot-blooded, weird, hypnotic, and emotional.

They talk about how rebels will be blindsiding the competition, picking their pockets and stealing their customers. The spirit and language style are self-centered on the rare breed personality, and exaggerated, hopefully just for impact.

Sonny Bonnell was interviewed by Aidan McCullen on the Innovation Show:

2016 – Originals: How Non-conformists Change the World

In 2016 Adam Grant wrote Originals: How Non-conformists Change the World. Grant goes beyond the corporate world. His cases stories come from sports, entertainment, politics and, of course business. He addresses non-conformists whatever their context, including talking to parents and how to encourage their children to be originals. He addresses fear, how to recognize good ideas, how to build support and how to go beyond the status quo and traditions. I highlighted so many sentences as I was reading that I cannot begin to share them all! One of my very favorites is “As iconic filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola observed, ‘The way to come to power is not always to merely challenge the Establishment, but first make a place in it and then challenge and double-cross the Establishment’.” Adam Grant’s skills and experience as an organizational psychologist shine through on every page.

For more from Adam Grant: https://www.ted.com/podcasts/worklife.

As the cover page says “Adam Grant takes you inside the minds of some of the world’s most unusual professionals to explore the science of making work not suck. From learning how to love criticism to harnessing the power of frustration, one thing’s for sure: You’ll never see your job the same way again.”

2014 – Rebels at Work: A Handbook for Leading Change from Within

In 2014 Lois Kelly and Carmen Medina published Rebels at Work: A Handbook for Leading Change from Within This book is an open-eyes hard hit at how to make change happen. How can you convince management. How can you challenge traditional thinkers and introduce new ideas. At the same time, you need to protect yourself and take care of your health and work-life balance. Lois and Carmen offer concrete ideas, techniques and advice. Lois worked at marketing agencies, and Carmen at the CIA. Their firsthand experiences bring depth to this book. Lois and Carmen are in it for the long game. Their website (https://www.rebelsatwork.com/how-we-can-help/about) includes resources, stories, personal stories from rebels at work and a blog. In fact, I contributed an article in 2020 “Resilient People, Resilient Organizations.”


Rebels at work covers issues like gaining credibility, navigating the organizational landscape, communicating your ideas, managing conflict and dealing with fear, uncertainty and doubt. It includes an important chapter that all rebels must read: A guide to rebel self-care. There is also a lot of complementary guidelines at the end of the book.

In 2020, Kelly and Medina published Rebels at Work Dispatches, a selection and organization of 10 years of blog posts.

2008 – The Age of Heretics: A History of the Radical Thinkers Who Reinvented Corporate Management

The first edition in 1996 was entitled The Age of Heretics: Heroes, Outlaws, and the Forerunners of Corporate Change, The two titles speak for themselves: we are in a world of outlaws who are leading change in organizations. Art was a pioneer and it shows in his work reflecting the radical changes happening among some people and organizations in the 1960s. He was there. He saw it! Warren Bennis, in the preface to the second edition says that Kleiner’s organizational heretic “is someone who sees a truth that contradicts the conventional wisdom of the institution to which he or she belongs—and who remains loyal to both entities, to the institution and the new truth.”  The Age of Heretics offers a detailed, enlightening view of the past and takes us up to the present and future times. Art Kleiner himself takes a positive perspective on change. He says, “We live in an age of heretics: an age where unconventional ideas become conventional wisdom rapidly. And that’s a good thing, because the future of industrial society depends on our ability to transcend the destructive management of the past and build a better kind of business.”

Kleiner closes the book with this inspiring idea: “These days, the greatest asset that heretics have is that there are so many of them. They exist in every organization, balancing the imperative to do good works with the imperative to keep their jobs and keep earning a living. Their greatest dream is to bring their work lives in tune with their personal hopes and dreams. Perhaps a corporation exists, in the end, precisely for its heretics. Perhaps its purpose in the long run is to help people expand their souls and capabilities by providing venues within which people can try things on a large scale—to succeed and fail and thereby change the world.” An inspiring, powerful vision for us to live up to.

Art Kleiner was interviewed on The Innovation Show by Aidan McCullen, a few weeks before my own episode. Aidan and Art did several episodes together, all well worth your time. https://theinnovationshow.io/?s=art+kleiner