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(TED) Plucky Rebels Being Agile in an Un-Agile Place


What is a “plucky rebel”?

Pluckiness means being optimistically determined.

Plucky rebels don’t lead others on suicide missions and they are not so positive that they lose credibility.

The word “rebel” pertains to the nature of start-ups.

If you’re not being rebellious, a successful company would have already produced and monetized your idea. Therefore, successful plucky rebels are agile and they push the limits without sacrificing predictability. Those traits are essential when launching a start-up within a large corporation.

Plucky rebels adhere to five rules:

  1. “Be right about the future” – Creating the future takes the guesswork out of predicting what it will be. Misreading the future results in products such as CD-R discs, for example, that were difficult to use in 2000 due to a miscalculation by developers in 1995. Yet even misses can produce positive results. For example, software created to message New York taxicabs failed, but the code formed the basis for Twitter.
  2. “Keep it secret, keep it safe” – Sharing your idea prematurely puts it in the system. Instead, stay quiet about your project until you have something people can see, touch and try. This way, you don’t have to explain your idea; the product speaks for itself.
  3. “Always cheat, always win” – Part of your job as a leader is to optimize resources on behalf of your people. Cheat by giving your initiative a creative name to shed preconceptions. For example, people know what “cloud services” are, so Peter Biddle of Intel called his team “affiliated services” to provide leeway to define his project.
  4. “Find some users and make them happy” – Real people who use and love your product make a more convincing argument than any chart or projection. For example, BitLocker developed its data protection feature to help incident response people sleep better at night. Now it produces a revenue stream of $500 million.
  5. “Make an attractive corpse” – Circumstances change, projects get canceled and efforts fail. Yet the short cycles of agile development allow for many small victories. So even if your project dies, you and your team can draw positives from the wreckage.

Plucky rebels are passionate about their projects. This passion serves as the fuel necessary to launch a start-up within a big company. Your belief in your idea must run so deep that you’d consider launching your start-up independently to make it happen, even if it means giving up the security and backing of your large corporation.

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