11 rules for learning to think differently

Think:Act Magazine "Breaking the rules"
11 rules for learning to think differently

Portrait of Think:Act Magazine

Think:Act Magazine

Munich Office, Central Europe
April 30, 2019

A step-by-step guide to knowing when to throw out the rulebook, and the best ways to do it


by Andrea Breanna
photo by Ragnar Schmuck
set design by Eva Jauss

Read more about the topic "Breaking the rules"

What can an organization do to maximize its potential for success? If you ask Andrea Breanna, the key is knowing when – and how – to break the rules. Here the former Huffington Post CTO and current RebelMouse CEO shares how she's learned to throw out the rulebook and let creativity take center stage.

  1. Put happiness first
    Make decisions based on your happiness and good things will follow. We are tempted to sacrifice our happiness for the good of the company, but in fact it's better for the company if we don't sacrifice our happiness. By following our happiness, we can tap into vitally important creative processes.
  2. Visit your vision — it is alive
    A rulebreaker can determine which stops on the roadmap are vital to spend time on fixing. It is often more important to sit with your core vision and its complementing priorities and values. Don't be distracted by sparkly projects that are ultimately tangents that can be handled by team members you trust. Your vision is the roadmap. Keep it alive.
  3. Stop starting and start finishing
    Avoid turning your team and yourself into task monkeys at all costs. Rulebreakers are always looking forward. A hefty to-do list is not a hill to climb, but a means of transportation to arriving at the core mission. Instead of dreading to start, begin to finish and reap the benefits of hard work.
  4. Simple is hard
    Keeping your mission, your product and your culture simple is the hardest thing to do – but it also is usually the most valuable thing you can do. Often this means changing everything when you have an epiphany about simplicity.
  5. Know when to break process
    There will be times when you or someone on your team needs to break away to tackle an important task. Make sure you have built out a network of support for this kind of individual momentum. Even if it isn't on the roadmap, it's important to fuel passions that could lead to big payoffs. Be fluid when it feels natural.
  6. Nurture fire starters
    Find and support people on the back end of your operations who need little direction and guidance to create something amazing out of nothing. What's important with fire starters is developing a history and legacy upon which a foundation of trust can be built. Keep them close to you.
  7. Turn embers into bonfires
    Ember tenders are the project leads who take a fire starter's work, integrate it into the broader company process and then maintain and iterate it further so that an ember can grow into a bonfire. Their job is to streamline communication by cutting out long feedback loops.
  8. Keep bonfires bonfiring
    The job of the bonfire manager is to decide which projects are most important and then assemble the team to execute them while maintaining the proper pace through feedback. What's key is removing the obstacles in front of fire starters and helping coordinate the process to see a project come to life.
  9. Business decisions are personal decisions
    It is a mind-boggling misconception that business and personal emotions can remain separated. Make every decision with the emotional health of you and your team members in mind. There are no heroes in choices made without heart. Pursue your happiness within your daily work. It will be rewarded.
  10. Do what makes you unique
    Every one of us is a unique individual, but often we feel like we have to squash our uniqueness to fit into corporate culture. This is a grave mistake. Fostering your own individuality and that of others leads to a better work environment and gives rise to groundbreaking ideas.
  11. Gratitude is the miracle muscle
    The saying may seem corny, but gratitude is the best attitude. Instead of constantly thinking "how much more?" begin feeling thankful for every moment of progress. It's a muscle you have to tone. Work it into your daily exercise routine. Gratitude is magically contagious and brings with it more productivity, motivation and cheer.

About the author
Portrait of Andrea Breanna
Andrea Breanna
is founder and CEO of the creative agency RebelMouse and was formerly CTO of The Huffington Post. Andrea is also on the Consumer Advisory Board for American Express. Andrea is proudly and openly transgender.
Further reading
Our Think:Act magazine
Think:Act magazine "Breaking the rules"
Think:Act Edition

Breaking the rules


Is breaking the rules a crucial skill? We examine how the people who have made their own rules also significantly shaped the world of business.

Published March 2019. Available in
Subscribe to newsletter

Curious about the contents of our newest Think:Act magazine? Receive your very own copy by signing up now! Subscribe here to receive our Think:Act magazine and the latest news from Roland Berger.

Portrait of Think:Act Magazine

Think:Act Magazine

Munich Office, Central Europe