Organizations don’t just need drones, bots, or AI to scale fast and steady. They need people who seek, see, and seize the opportunity to do things differently to rise above the status quo.
I recently had a long winding discussion with a Venture Capitalist who was curious about what makes Roambee tick. Since its founding in 2014, Roambee has made a mark in the IoT market. We didn’t begin with millions of dollars in funding, nor did we have hundreds of team members handling things. Despite a frugal foundation, we’ve built full-fledged operations in 7+ countries and have catered to 200+ global enterprise customers. We overcame the inevitable teething problems of a new technology solution, and we took competition from well-established players head-on.
How did we take our operations global with fewer than 200 people? How do we roll out radically new market solutions in a matter of months? What is it that drives such rapid evolution and scale from such a small team?
“It’s simple” I told him; “that’s because we’re Responsible Rebels”.
Work culture is the most important catalyst for a company’s success. Just like Facebook has a “Hacker” culture, and Netflix built a culture of “Freedom and Responsibility,” Roambee has its own unique culture that fosters rapid innovation and growth.
At Roambee, we believe in people who love to innovate and positively disrupt everything. We thrive on people who rebel against the norm, people who challenge the status quo, people who don’t just follow a process because “it’s how things are done around here”.
We are rebels, Responsible Rebels.
Let’s break that down.
A responsible team member follows a company’s rules and processes to the letter.
Whether it’s hitting targets, meeting expectations, or taking ownership for their actions, they’re the dependable shoulders that stable organizations are built on.
“Dependable” is what most organizations look for. But is “Dependable” enough? Organizations built solely on a dependable workforce will stagnate.
Without people who think outside the box or color outside the lines, organizations could go years, even decades, doing things exactly the same, without ever wondering if there’s something better out there.
“Rebels” on the other hand are team members that question the status quo. They think differently, innovate, bring new concepts and methods to the mix. They catch flaws that hide in everyone else’s blind spot, and they improve the odds of success by stress-testing the logic behind everything.
They live life outside the box, they color outside the lines, they define their own way.
Managers and HR departments in most companies often struggle with them. Rebels are often misunderstood, they’re the black sheep that can’t follow the rules. They flout the norms, they get into heated debates that can spiral into arguments. Rebels are often let go because they’re “not team players.” They jump from organization to organization because they just don’t fit the template that companies treasure above everything else. Whether their opinions and ideas add value is beside the point.
Some of the world’s biggest companies — Uber, or even the old Apple that Steve Jobs set up (before his unceremonious exit) — nurtured these qualities. These companies thrived and disrupted the market precisely because the person at the helm rebelled against the norm, dreamt big, and did things differently. Still, many of these companies bore the brunt of their rebellions at later stages in their journey. Things took an ugly turn, and many believed it could all have been avoided if the upstarts acted just a bit more “responsible.”
An organization full of responsible people will hold steady, grow slowly, but eventually fail. If the rise and fall of companies like Kongō Gumi, Kodak, Nokia, or Yahoo has taught us anything, it’s that companies that don’t adapt to change, don’t stand a chance. An organization full of rebels wouldn’t work either, things would be too turbulent to get anything done.
Is there a way to balance the mix of “responsible” and “rebellious”?
A Responsible Rebel at Roambee questions everything, digs deep for every decision, and always has a bigger picture in mind. We don’t think rules or processes are draconian, we see them for the positive discipline and structure that it brings to help us realize the bigger picture.
But, if the rules or processes don’t help achieve our ultimate goal, we are sure to rebel against them.
A Responsible Rebel is also someone who is self-motivated and sees things through to completion, without any prodding.
Why am I Here?
Responsible Rebels don’t make long-term thinking the boss’ job.
They’re just as invested as the CEO in how the company will survive and thrive today, or five years from now, because they take the time to understand the big picture and purpose — and what it means for their professional and personal lives. With a proper purpose established, every action, every milestone aligns toward achieving that purpose. It's not about disrupting existing processes for the sake (or fun) of it; rather, it’s to achieve a specific well-defined outcome.
Why am I Doing This?
Responsible Rebels never shy from questioning the status quo.
They never follow instructions blindly just because someone told them to do it. They’re going to want to see the logic before they comply.
For example, when the world was convinced that tracking a fleet was the best approach to smart logistics, we questioned it. We took a bold new "connected things” approach for better tracking and supply chain visibility instead. That’s because we saw that nearly 80% of freight is shipped using third-party transportation, not on self-operated fleets, which inspired us to build and deploy the market’s first on-demand shipment-level monitoring solution in a matter of weeks.
Why Should I Do This; Is What I’m Doing Right?
Responsible Rebels have data and facts to back them up.
They always have a good reason for anything they propose, which is why they know it’s worth it, and within the realm of doability. Whatever the change, there must be some valid and acceptable reason behind it. They’re passionate about what they do, and how the change will work, and how it’ll work with others. They’re guided by data and a generous measure of common sense. If the data doesn’t add up, they’ll drop the argument without a fuss.
Why Shouldn't I Do This Differently?
Responsible Rebels embrace “anything new” willingly.
They are not afraid to drop the dogma for something that can get the same results faster, and with fewer resources. They are obsessed with making the best even better, and they revel in a sense of accomplishment from raising the bar even higher.
When we saw the challenges that well-established inventory tracking systems like RFID posed in terms cost and scalability, we were one of the first to adapt Bluetooth and Nb-IoT to build a better alternative in this space. In this process, we were also the first to bridge the gap between indoor, outdoor, and in-transit item-level monitoring.
Why Should I Rely on Hierarchy Alone?
Responsible Rebels respect hierarchy; but they still find the best way to get a job done.
They’re not satisfied taking the same path to the same end every day, not if there’s a faster way to get there. They’ll review processes, figure out the kinks, and find faster ways to get from point A to point B without cutting corners.
When we were setting up a complete IoT supply chain tracking and management solution, industry experts and leaders advised Roambee to stick to one thing, get it right, and do it well.
We questioned that advice.
We bit the bullet and didn’t confine ourselves to just one area of expertise. Instead, we pioneered our own hardware, our own software, built data scrounging and analytics algorithms from scratch, and put together the building blocks for an automated supply chain intelligence suite and a Network Operations Center (NOC), all using in-house experience and expertise. This was a game-changer — it gave our customers a one stop shop for all their supply chain monitoring and management needs.
Why am I Doing this Wrong?
Responsible Rebels are realists, they thrive on constructive criticism.
They’re not blind to the signs of disarray, and they’re open to the possibility of failure. They even welcome it, recognizing the valuable lessons and opportunities for improvement in failures.
Responsible rebels aren’t shy of asking for help, neither do they shy away from accepting responsibility or critical feedback. In fact, they count on it to improve ideas or validate them beyond question.
Why Work On the Next Big Thing Alone?
Responsible Rebels always think of scale.
They don't just work well solo, they're also looking for partners in crime. They may go against established norms, but they don't always go at it alone. They encourage others who are set in their way, especially people who aren’t fond of change (yeah, there’s always one) or people that don’t take to innovation readily. They understand that innovation, improvement, and progress don’t happen in silos. It’s an “all or nothing” kind of deal. They take the time and make the effort to get the majority’s buy-in, involving the team, their superiors, the colleagues, even getting the customers, partners, and vendors in on it. They recognize and rope in everyone that’s vital to speeding up the collective success story.
Preserving the “Responsible Rebel” Culture
Roambee does whatever it can to encourage and enable our Responsible Rebels.
Every team and individual has the freedom to build their own set of goals, with just one condition — their goals need to align with those of the organization.
Every individual has the opportunity to ask "Why?", till they are convinced.
If you are a team manager, you have individual KPIs, apart from your collective team’s KPIs at Roambee. The beauty of this arrangement is that there’s lesser incentive to manage, and a bigger call to mentor.
At Roambee, every individual is nurtured to bring out the rebel in them. We still give them a semblance of structure and discipline however, just enough that the right processes and cohesion are maintained to deliver at scale.
The responsibly rebellious culture has carried us to where we stand today, and we believe it’ll take us to the pinnacle of success in the coming years!