LIZZIE BOOK REVIEW 03: Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed.

Welcome to the Lizzie Book Review for Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed.

All Lizzie Book Reviews are a 3 minute read, and in this format:

  1. Why I Chose This Book.
  2. The Review (under 300 words)
  3. My scores for Creativity, Insight and Precision.
1. Why I Chose This Book.

The title Rebel Ideas brings curiosity in itself. Bringing together popular topics of psychology, economics and anthropology, it was bound to share insights and a perspective that I had not explored before. I wasn’t disappointed.

QUOTE:  “If you really consider differences of opinion and dissenting views and different experiential bases, what you get is richer and more accurate view of the world” p35

2. The Review.

Insightful. Fascinating. Enlightening. This is a book that has stories that will hit you emotionally and mentally. I have been particularly struck by my naivety. My naivety that all those in expert and influential roles make the right choices utilising the right minds and keeping their own preferences aside. From what I have read this is not true. There is learning for all. This book has shown me how blind I am.

Divided into different aspects of ‘perspective blindness’, Matthew divides the book into: collective blindness, rebels versus clones, constructive dissent, innovation, echo chambers, beyond average, the big picture. Unsurprisingly each element brings in a new perspective.

In summary he calls on many a story and idea to highlight our hidden blindness and the need to have rebel ideas and approaches to have the best teams and leaders.  A few of these are:

  • Although the information was there, due to collective blindness the authorities didn’t understand the motivations behind the actions of 9/11.
  • Unless you have cognitive diversity you will always be driven by one viewpoint. Bletchley Park successfully used cognitive diversity to recruit. They recruited those good at crosswords and maths.
  • The disasters of constructive dissent on Mount Everest. Although experienced and knowledgable, the team left decisions to the hierarchy resulting in fatalities. This is transferred to inefficient meetings where people only say what they think people want to hear. The Highest paid person opinion (HPPO) rules resulting in blinkered approaches.
  • For innovation to be truly impactful take ideas from two aspects of life (i.e. wheels and a suitcase).
  • You will have blind perspectives unless you get out of your own echo chamber of thoughts and influences from those around you. Trust and safety built into the environments we know means we fail to recognise others.
  • The average of anything does not exist. We are all different if we seek to work to the average we wont get the best from others.

QUOTE ” when an average is being used well, its harnessing the insights from multiple people. When it is used badly, its imposing a solution for multiple people”

  • Leaders recognise the need to have a bigger picture perspective. We can build this through challenging our own bias, bringing together alternative groups that can mirror boards and giving. When you utilise these skills collaboration tends to be greater and our minds and actions are widened.

QUOTE: “To become a visionary you have to take the perspective of an outsider to see the things that are taken for granted by insiders” p143

3. My scores for Creativity, Insight and Precision

CREATIVITY – How interesting and innovative was it?
Creative through the intersection of varied research. It gives you a wake up call to your blind side and blindfolds that we all wear on a daily basis.

INSIGHT – What will it teach you?
This is an insightful read. It will test your own idea of those in powerful high risk roles that tinker with the world. It is supported by ancient old ideas by greek philosophers that we still run with. Plus insight to recent (preventable) blunders. There is a need to constantly remind ourselves of our own blind spots and blindfolds that guide us unconsciously. The trick is in keeping these less blind and ensuring daily behaviours and habits build from a wide perspective.

PRECISION – How exactly can you apply what it teaches?
The ideas and thoughts can be applied by leaders and their teams. It is not laid out with a list that you can easily filter for what will work for you. But there are some real gems. Recognising your own and your team(s) blindness. Being aware that a culture where you only share what you think people want to hear can damage you, them and those around you. Be innovate through a ying and yang approach


Should I buy the book?

If you would like a book that gives you the background and shows you how:


If you would like a book with stories and long hand examples that you could twist a little to fit your context:



QUOTE: “diversity is not merely the ingredient that drives the collective intelligence of human groups, it is also the hidden ingredient that has driven the unique evolutionary pathway of our species”

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