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Rare Breeds: Why We Should Embrace Difference to Boost Employee Engagement

Rare breeds are the future of organizations. In an ever-changing world, we need people who are going to challenge the status quo and shake things up a little.

Rare Breeds: Why We Should Embrace Difference to Boost Employee Engagement

To say I was excited to talk to Sunny Bonnell on are recent episode of the BOOST! Podcast is an understatement. I read her book, “Rare Breed” a couple times and have some (additional) tattoo worthy quotes I’m considering— I love it that much!

This book is the real deal and it bring to light an important aspect of diversity often overlooked. Rare breeds, defined by Sunny and her co-author Ashleigh Hansberger, are those people who are uncommon among the kind, the disrupters, innovators, and rebels. And because of that, they don’t fit into the mold we try to force them into. And yet, they are probably the ones who will save companies from becoming obsolete. Sunny shared all her wisdom and insight with us in this conversation—make sure to check out the full episode to hear it all!

What are Rare Breeds?

Rare breeds are people with certain characteristics that make it hard to conform to the status quo. They’re not out there to wreak havoc on organizations, but they just can’t help themselves when it comes to disruptive and rebellious ideas. And while traditional organizations might have shunned them and seen their characteristics as vices, Sunny argues that they’re really virtues that drive company innovation and creativity when understood.

Here are the seven rare breed characteristics:

  • Rebellious
  • Audacious
  • Obsessive
  • Hot blooded
  • Weird
  • Hypnotic
  • Emotional

Traditionally seen as only as vices, these virtues are counterintuitive and often misunderstood. But rare breeds are gifts to organizations and these qualities can be understood and channeled in the workplace to bring true innovation, creativity, and necessary solutions.

Why we Need Rare Breeds

We need rare breeds in the workplace because the workplace has changed. Sunny points to three overlapping “existential problems” in the corporate world:

  1. Lack of understanding that corporations are no longer making the rules.
  2. Corporations are expected to be agents of change, but they’re not wired for it—they’re still all about predictability and profits.
  3. Ongoing change. What got us here, won’t get us there. Pandemics, AI, financial crises, climate change… there are so many external pressures that mean corporations cannot keep the status quo.

These crises demand change. To make it in the future, companies need innovative minds. They need to break a few eggs and make an omelet. They need to find and nurture rare breeds in their organizations.

Creating a Corporate Culture Shift

So, what’s a company to do? For Sunny, it all starts with mindset. A rare breed mindset is clear on three things:

  • Understanding the value of the rare breeds in your organization.
  • Creating an organization that nurtures and supports rare breeds.
  • Getting crystal clear on the mission, vision, values, and direction of the company—what are you fighting for, and what are you fighting against?

To get value from the rare breeds in your organization, there must be psychological safety. This is a culture where people are not afraid to fail—they’re allowed to fail. They’re not going to get fired for taking a risk and missing the mark… or fired for the same reason they were hired!

This does not mean accepting poor performance or toxic, disruptive behavior. However, if rare breeds are empowered to lean into their unique qualities without fear of punishment, companies can reach that point of true innovation and growth.

Rare breeds are the future of organizations. In an ever-changing world, we need people who are going to challenge the status quo and shake things up a little. Leaders need to avoid stripping away the unique qualities of these individuals and embrace them in organizations.

Sunny had so much more to share with us, so check out her interview with us on the BOOST! Podcast, hosted by Centrical. And if you want to learn more about Sunny and Ashleigh’s work with Rare Breed and what it means for leadership and the future of our organizations, check out their website here.

About the Author: Luke Jamieson is the Centrical ANZ Regional director and one of the top 25 global influencers and thought leaders on customer experience and employee engagement. His rebellious, unconventional approaches have been attributed to him earning such titles. But it is his combination of vision, high energy, audacious creativity, and mischievous execution that makes him an inspiring and refreshing speaker, podcaster, and blogger. 

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