Does Being a Creative Rebel Work IRL?

Creative rebels aren’t made, they’re born. But we have an idea about why being a creative rebel might not work when applied to real world situations.

“On a Saturday night in Modena, a picturesque city in one of the most well-known culinary regions of Italy, a couple and their two young sons dined at the three-Michelin star restaurant Osteria Francescana. The father ordered for the family “Tradition in Evolution,” a tasting menu with 10 of the restaurant’s most popular dishes. One of them, “snails under the earth,” is served as a soup. Snails are covered by an “earth” of coffee, nuts, and black truffle, and “hidden” under a cream made with raw potato and a garlic foam. As maître d’ Giuseppe Palmieri took the order, he noticed a slightly desperate look on the boys’ faces. Palmieri turned to the younger boy and asked, “What would you like to have?” He answered: “Pizza!”

Osteria Francescana is not the kind of place that offers pizza. Yet, without hesitation, Palmieri excused himself and called the city’s best pizzeria. A taxi showed up not long after with the pizza, and Palmieri delivered it to the table. At many fancy restaurants, this would have been unthinkable. But the two children and their parents will likely never forget Palmieri’s act of kindness. And, as Palmieri told me, “It simply took a change of course, and one pizza.”¹

Osteria Francescana

The whole premise of this article focused around the idea that all it takes to solve a problem is to switch your thinking from what you think should be done, to what could be done. Becoming a “creative rebel” and turning a rule break into a beneficial contribution; exactly how Giuseppe Palmieri seemingly saved the day (simply by ordering a pizza for the boys to be delivered to the restaurant). That got me thinking, while this approach is a super effective problem-solving method, if we applied the same approach to creativity, I’m not positive it would work. 

I know, I know, but just hear me out. 

For me, the concept is grayer than it is clearly black and white. When we talk about creativity and coming up with ideas, it’s easy to assume that the default starting point is always the “what you could do”, figure out what the possibilities are and start with that. But I actually think the opposite is true. From my perspective, the default is to start with what we should do, the more rational and logical solutions, because that’s what we already know.

I’m not saying this is bad, in fact I think it’s very necessary because regardless of how or where, creativity ALWAYS has a starting point. Whether that starting point is a creative brief, a simple idea, or a replication of something that has worked well in the past, isn’t important. What’s important is the notion that creativity always has to start somewhere. For example, the Harvard Business Review article uses a real-world scenario of this in Captain Sully Sullenberg, who landed the bird-stricken plane on the Hudson River in New York. “Sully worked through the standard emergency procedures (what he should do), but also allowed himself to think about what he could do.” 

It’s this starting point that enables and leads to the “what you could do” as you’ve already gone through the more rational and logical solutions. And maybe that’s where it stopped, and you didn’t need to push for a more creative solution. But for those problems that require you go the extra creative mile, you almost have to cross off the more obvious realities to get to those rule breaking, rebel making, possibilities.


Sources: Harvard Business Review