The Misfit Economy, Alexa Clay and Kyra Maya Phillips - Book Summary

The Misfit Economy honors people who dare to break all the rules of normal economic flow. Instead of looking at them with disdain and negativity, we can learn a lot of clever strategies from how they survived and succeeded in extremely harsh environments.

The book is a great choice with

  • Those who want to show their difference;
  • Entrepreneurs;
  • Different people, independent in thought and action in all fields.

The author of this book is

Alexa Clay, the leading expert on subcultures. Besides her role as the head of a series of projects, she is also the founder of the Association of Entrepreneurs with the aim of making changes in this industry.

Kyra Maya, famous author and development strategist. Before graduating from the London School of Economics, she began writing environmental articles for The Guardian newspaper.

Chapter 1. The greatest value that the book brings: The difference will be the key to opening the door to success.

We can learn a lot from rebels like pirates, criminals or hackers. Because, life outside the law requires not only persistence, ingenuity but also great organization and cooperation ability. This is the most accurate explanation for the success of the 18th century pirates' success in blocking Atlantic trade.

In the era of global economy, thinking creatively, forward-thinking and steadfast like the “rebel” will lead you to success.

In the next section, readers will get information about

  • How three German brothers built a new business empire by copying;
  • How a rebellious student ended up starting a school on his own;
  • How a teenage hacker started his own telecommunications company.

Chapter 2. A new world is opening its doors to “different” people.

When it comes to rebels, people often think of actions that are different, contrary to the common standards of society. However, in a rapidly growing economy, this is a good thing. Because, they are the ones who can improve the passive situation before the change that traditional industries are facing.

David Berdish, a third-generation worker at Ford, is a typical case of "different". Despite the negative effects on his career, he still supported the strange ideas that he considered necessary for Ford such as hourly car rental or other flexible alternatives. After a difficult initial period, his idea was finally approved, and this is what helped to unite the auto industry.

With bold dreams, a different type of person always has a different way of thinking than the majority. If in the past they were stigmatized and shunned, today companies in all fields are eager to hire such people. One of them is SAP, the leading German software company. They announced hiring people with autism for the position of programming and debugging, a job that requires special skills and attention to detail.

Besides, the ability to flexibly handle unexpected situations of different people is also an attraction for corporations. Instead of working rigidly and focusing only on one specialty like older generations, today's workforce needs to be highly creative and adaptable. Therefore, this business environment is especially suitable and promising for a different type of person.

“Difference” brings many benefits, so what can we learn from such a person?

Chapter 3. Criminals are "rebellious" by nature, they have essential survival skills such as diligence, adaptability and flexibility.

Criminals are typical rebels who don't care about rules or regulations. It's hard to believe, but the truth is we can learn a lot from them.

To be able to survive and succeed in the underworld with fierce competition, besides special skills, they also need to be associated with legitimate business activities. From here, the Defy Ventures project in New York was born with the purpose of providing business knowledge to help expired criminals do genuine business. The project was a resounding success with 72/115 people after completing the course opened their own business, reaching a total revenue of up to 13 million dollars. Up to 87% of the participants had jobs, while only 5% returned to the illegal path. The example above proves that true citizens can completely learn from someone who has committed a crime.

The most important skill of the disparate type is the rapid adaptation to changes in economic conditions. The Somali "Pirates" are a positive example of this view. After the collapse of the government in the 1990s, the Somali coast became too dangerous for shipping and fishing (most of which was illegal fishing). Local fishermen began to attack these ships, looking for valuables or kidnapping sailors in exchange for ransom. This incident marked the birth of the modern "piracy".

The practice quickly evolved into a professional organization, becoming a multi-million dollar industry. It can be seen that the pirate system has grasped the situation very quickly, taking timely actions to prevent freight companies from deliberately breaking the law.

While piracy is not a legal act, their ability to adapt and change quickly is worth learning.

Chapter 4. When facing difficulties, the most important factor is creativity.

Have you ever felt helpless in the face of a series of difficulties? The truth is that everyone goes through seemingly insurmountable obstacles. However, the most important thing is an unyielding spirit. This is both a point of view and a tactic. In addition to passion and determination, the tactic of the "don't give up" type is creativity.

So don't worry if you don't plan thoroughly or even preliminary, use all the resources available around you to wait for whatever happens. For example, when the DHL brand in Clinton, Ohio laid off 9,000 employees, presidents Mark Rembert and Taylor Stuckert began remedial campaigns. They build spontaneous mass movement to connect the community and raise awareness of business strategy. Campaigns were launched to encourage people to buy from small businesses and revive local commercial offices.

The creation of new things always has initial difficulties. For example, when setting up a company, you will have to deal with piles of papers and documents, and have to make your own business strategy from empty hands. This is a very normal thing.

In fact, a UK study found that 20% of small businesses are semi-legal. For example, "selling" website design skills to a marketing organization. Such actions are not considered fraud, they are just a way around the rigid rules of running a business.

Chapter 5. Copying is not only a smart business strategy, it can also improve product quality.

In the era of internet technology boom, the right to copy products has always been a controversial issue because there are many ways to look at it. Copying will be an effective business strategy if we know to temporarily put aside concerns about legal or ethical issues.

Rocket Internet, founded by three German brothers Marc, Oliver and Alexander, is considered a "successful copycat" of American online services companies such as eBay and Airborne. The three brothers realized that an eBay-like service had great potential in the German market. After receiving no response from eBay about their offer to branch, they decided to launch a similar company called Alando.

Six months later, eBay demanded more than $38 million in damages. At the same time, Rocket Internet operated a short-term website with similar services and became a major competitor to Airborne.

The profit of the copied products is not inferior to the original when it accounts for 600 billion dollars a year, equivalent to 7% of the total global trade! Talking about the popularity of this form, we can mention Shanzai, a business in China that focuses on copying products of big brands to sell at home and export at low prices.

Copying is not only profitable for the business, but it is also a completely ethical thing to do. Breaking the monopoly will bring products with better quality. For example, India and Brazil recently passed legislation that allows pharmaceutical companies to copy products of some well-known brands without paying a fee. This act brought good quality and affordable pharmaceuticals to millions of people.

The loosening of regulations on intellectual property rights is at the core of the miracle in the growth of the American economy. ” – Doron S. Ben-Atar

Chapter 6. The copying and exchange of ideas has promoted innovation and development.

Despite being one of the most successful social networks, Facebook is certainly not a pioneer in this industry. The above fact proves the point that we can innovate a product by copying it. In fact, human inventions such as steam locomotives or computers are based on this rule. That's when you "upgrade" an existing product. So, not only can different models of goods be distinguished, this form of production can even create a new product.

The online music download application was first known through the appearance of Napster. The music industry is gradually chaotic because of the free song sharing and listening feature of this application. Big brands try to stop its growth with successive lawsuits.

Then, legitimate music streaming services like Spotify appeared as timely solutions. Despite its slow start, Spotify grew in popularity and by 2008 they were able to pay out $2 billion in royalties to artists.

From the above example, it can be asserted that sharing an idea to jointly innovate it will bring more benefits than fighting, especially when the product is initially successful.

After two decades working for the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, scientist Chas Bountra chose a rather eccentric path. He developed pharmaceutical research before the competition. However, in the end, Bountra proposed to jointly develop the new drug with competitors in the same industry. After some experimentation, rival firms were offered exclusive distribution rights. This not only makes the research process more efficient, but also creates healthy economic competition.

In addition, the patent office is only an obstacle to innovation as they seem to favor companies with abundant financial resources over independent and innovative inventors. The proof is that between 1999 and 2008, only 1.5% of the claimed units were patented!

Chapter 7. The essence of hacking is understanding the nature to change and improve a product.

When it comes to "hackers", people often think of shady actors who specialize in stealing data from loopholes in information protection systems. However, we have forgotten that real hackers are not just online thieves, Edward Snowden is a prime example. He infiltrated the US national security agency to investigate suspicious surveillance activities, thereby defending the right to freedom of information. That is also how anonymous hackers Anonymous have been challenging the government.

The essence of hacking is to dissect the problem to get to the bottom of it, and then rearrange it in a more efficient way.

This is how Sam Robert "manipulates" electrical devices since the age of 9 by taking them apart to reassemble in another way. The boy even invented a burglar alarm system from an old portable radio. When given a 2G phone sim, after 6 months of studying how it works, he finally cooperated with his brother to found his own telecommunications company.

Not just computers, real hackers can also change an organization or even society.

This is how Gary Slutkin changed urban violence. After five years of analyzing the origins and causes of violence in his neighborhood, he realized that its development in the community was similar to a disease in the human body. From there, he decided to apply the strategies of his pharmaceutical business to solve the problem. Eventually, Slutkin developed a campaign that allowed people to call “violence stoppers” when they saw an impending conflict. These stoppers are located in the communities themselves, they will greatly improve this painful situation.

After a resounding success, Slutkin's method was tested across the United States. By doing so, he has actually changed policies to prevent violence that have not been effective.

Chapter 8. Innovation can come from challenging reality and asking open-ended questions.

The person who came up with the idea of ​​​​the first plane was considered crazy. However, this is the turning point for innovation as it inspires people by broadening their view of the world.

Innovation happens when we stop taking realities about the world around us for granted. At the age of 12, Dale Stephens decided to drop out of school when he was fed up with rigid and tasteless books. Instead, he sought out instructors to pursue his passions outside of the classroom. That experience is the foundation for Stephens to found UnCollege, an organization that helps students find alternatives to traditional careers. He proved to society that beyond the traditional education system, there is much more independent and creative work.

Challenging reality can create innovation, but questions that dig into the roots are what make the art.

At NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, scientists' inspiration often comes from science fiction novels or stories. Such mind-blowing stories can help them uncover unexpected discoveries in real life.

Surely innovation will never begin with an answer. If we want to create something new, we have to ask provocative questions to broaden people's horizons and perceptions. That's why French gender equality activist La Barbe wears a fake beard and interrupts a meeting of the ruling men's organization to draw attention to the issue of gender inequality.

Chapter 9. A new journey can open up surprises and lead us to success.

Society often encourages people to act in a certain and safe way. However, sometimes the risk will bring us great value.

The case of Gib Bulloch clearly illustrates this point. Despite having a steady paying career as a consultant for Accenture, he felt he wanted to create something different. So he took a leave of absence to work on a development project in Macedonia, where the development staff did not receive in-depth business training.

From there, Bulloch came up with the idea to create a nonprofit financial advisory division for development organizations within Accenture itself. With this plan, employees can contribute to development projects and receive extra income if they do well. With the success of Accenture, the division has managed more than 200 development projects each year to date.

Bulloch's success has proven that, sometimes, taking the risk of pushing them out into an unfamiliar, difficult environment is what brings the greatest value.

Former Brown University soccer team player Tyler Gale gave up his career to explore the world. He accompanied the ethnobotanist in Costa Rica for two years, and nine months later he lived in the Amazon indigenous tribe to learn this forest. Next, Gale continued on to Peru, where he came up with the idea for a business based on the Guasuya tea leaves that grow there.

Through his years of experience with nature, he became a successful social entrepreneur. With the launch of a beverage made from Guasuya tea leaves, Gale is not only helping Peruvian farmers, but also contributing to the campaign to stop deforestation.

Chapter 10. The world of different people does not exist hierarchical, they appreciate cooperation development rather than competition with each other.

We often mistakenly believe that different people function in isolation. Despite their initiative and independence, they are always looking for collaborative communities. This community is made up of separate individuals and there is no hierarchy.  

Realizing the effectiveness of this approach, many companies like Valve (the company that publishes the hit Half-life game and a series of other online games) are actively learning the cooperation model of others. separate.

At Valve, there is no official hierarchy, all employees are divided into small groups to work, salaries will be calculated according to the cross-evaluation among members in terms of teamwork ability, skills. technical, contribution to the common work.

It can be seen that cooperation is the most typical feature of the community of different people.

Linux, the computer operating system originally developed by a single programmer operating in an "open" form, is the next good example. Over time, the community of freelance programmers and hackers involved in the project has grown rapidly. In this community, all decisions about operating system changes are subject to public discussion.

This also proves that, when participating in a community, people who are different also follow their own operating principles and are not completely "undisciplined" as we think.

Even this rule holds true for pirates, the typical "different guys". In the 18th century, they established a market that developed transatlantic trade. On commercial ships, sailors were more connected because powers, duties and profits were shared equally among all.


“Difference” is not a negative word to describe people. On the contrary, breaking the boundaries of rigid thinking helps this type of person to create innovation and growth. They are the ones who changed the history of the world with bold ideas and fierce opposition to laws and prejudices. In a modern world of constant change, the qualities of people who are different will help them adapt and overcome any challenge.

Lesson learned

Bring your personal ego to work

We often ignore our ego when we go to work. However, this will make us more closed. You can completely make your own yoga practice a topic of conversation in your company, so that people can share your passion. Or even, a few yoga exercises a day with colleagues will be a good suggestion to help them relieve stress.