Rebellious Reflection: How We Hit Our First Identity Crisis
"Damn.. That hurts!" is the first full-sentence response after we realize we've hit what seems to be our very first identity crisis. It’s mid-July and we’ve just finished a meeting in Amsterdam while we reflect on our adventures so far.
While we realize something isn’t right, the first question that comes to mind is: “Why didn’t we notice this before?”. This question is quickly followed by a question that seems even harder to answer: “How are we going to overcome this?”. In what becomes an interesting soul-searching period, we try to find answers to these and other fundamental questions of our existence as Corporate Rebels.
But before we discuss the answers we came up with, we like to take you back to the root of our identity crisis. On January 1st of 2016 we started our adventure as Corporate Rebels. We quit our jobs to start our search for the world’s most inspiring workplaces. The goal? To find a solution to an incredibly widespread problem: 87% of employees around the world are disengaged with work. A problem we experienced first-hand in our first two years of our careers.
An exciting start
The first few months can best be described as exciting. We had just left our nine-to-five-jobs and heavily enjoyed our first few months of freedom. We visited our first Bucket List heroes and got highly inspired by their stories of radically different workplaces. The utopian sounding workplaces we had been reading about for over 2 years seemed to actually exist. It wasn’t just big talk; these companies were actually redesigning the way we work in an incredible way.
The more we wrote about these workplaces, the more these stories resonated with others. The amount of followers on our blog slowly increased and the first organizations started to contact us to invite us to share our stories with their people.
The big summer boost
A crucial moment for us and our adventure was the moment Dutch financial newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad agreed to work with us. We decided to write a series of articles based on the findings of our ‘research’ for them. The articles reached an audience wider than we had ever reached before. Articles in other newspapers and interviews on radio stations followed and subsequently increased our reach in a short period of time.
The result? More organizations and conference organizers started to contact us in order to share our story with them. This resulted in the fact that presentations and workshops slowly became our first source of income.
Most popular FAQ: How the hell do you guys make money?
Before we started our adventure we decided not to have a predetermined idea of how we were going to make our money. This might sound stupid and naive (the latter is right for sure) but for us it was an important part of our search. Because how can you properly determine your business model when you don’t even understand the subject you’re about to dive into? We believed a predetermined business model would only lead to tunnel vision.
We felt it would be more realistic to find ways to make money along the way. A great side benefit of this: people didn’t always believe us and started to propose all kinds of business models. “You will surely just write a book and become international keynote speakers” was one of the earliest projections. Every time someone made a projection, we gratefully wrote it down and added it to the quickly expanding list of ideas.
Back to the summer boost. Organically, we started to make money by doing presentations and workshops. And not just in Holland, but also in Belgium, the UK, Canada, and the US. We love the fact that people want to learn more about the unique organizations we visit. Every time we share these stories, people get inspired and want to learn more about this radically different way of working. Whether it’s the complete freedom at the Finext, there is an incredible need out there to change the way work is organized.
A painful realization
The unique stories of our Bucket List heroes continue to amaze us. Time and time again we feel like kids in a candy store when we visit our Bucket List heroes. But of course, some visits are more inspirational than others.
We noticed a trend: we seemed most inspired by the people that actually created these radically different organizations. These are the rebels who radically challenge the status quo; regardless of what others are saying and regardless of what others are doing. At the same time, we seemed less inspired by the people that solely research, talk and write about these organizations.
And this is where the identity crisis kicked in. While we realized that we were less inspired by the authors, speakers, and researchers, we also realized the only thing we were doing ourselves was writing, speaking and researching. Ouch… The identity crisis had arrived.
Overcoming our identity crisis
After digging deeper into that feeling for a while, we figured out two important things.
- Impact is important to us. What we mean is that as Corporate Rebels it is important for us to actually make a significant change in the way people work.
- We love doing talks and workshops and we believe it is highly valuable to inspire change. But to create better workplaces, the inspiration should be followed up with tangible actions.
To overcome our identity crisis and to keep these two things in mind, we started to look for ways in which our knowledge, enthusiasm and experience could be used to further increase our impact. Lots of new ideas came up and lots of earlier ideas were reconsidered. Discussing the long list of possibilities became an interesting period that has resulted in some new and exciting steps.
But that's for later. With this blog post we just wanted to share with you more insights into our personal journey. We like to share our ups and downs, our failures and successes. And apparently, also our identity crises. Who knows it might just help you on your personal journey as well, and if not, for sure it will force a smile here and there.
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As part of our collaboration with Haier - one of the world's most pioneering companies - we research and share how they work. Recently, we chatted with leaders of the company, including Zhang Ruimin (CEO of Haier), Kevin Nolan (CEO of GE Appliances - the US part of Haier) and Yannick Fierling (CEO of Haier Europe). In this post, we share the recordings.
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