Originals: A Book Review

This is a summary of the key takeaways from the book “Originals” by Adam Grant.

After the final chapter the author shares a summary of some of the ways individuals, leaders, and parents and teachers can be original.

Individual Actions:

  • Question the default.
  • Triple the number of ideas you generate.
  • Immerse yourself in a new domain.
  • Procrastinate strategically.
    (“Procrastination makes you more likely to engage in divergent thinking and gives ideas time to incubate.”)
  • Seek more feedback from peers.

Voicing and Championing Original Ideas:

  • Balance your risk portfolio.
    (When you’re going to take a risk in one domain, offset it by being unusually cautious in another realm of your life. Like the entrepreneurs who kept their day jobs while testing their ideas.)
  • Highlight the reasons not to support your idea.
    (Rufus Griscom was an entrepreneur who told investors the three biggest weaknesses of his idea. When people have to work beyond the obvious risks they will be more aware of its virtues.)
  • Make your ideas more familiar.
  • Speak to a different audience.
  • Be a tempered radical.

Managing emotions:

  • Motivate yourself differently when you’re committed vs uncertain.
  • Don’t try to calm down.
  • Focus on the victim, not the perpetrator.
  • Realize you’re not alone.
  • Remember that if you don’t take initiate, the status quo will persist.

Leader Actions:

  • Run an innovation tournament
  • Picture yourself as the enemy.
  • Invite employees from different functions and levels to pitch ideas.
  • Hold an opposite day.
  • Ban the words like love and hate.
    (DoSomething.org banned these works because it was too easy to give a visceral responses without giving it thought.)
  • Building cultures of originality.
  • Hire not on cultural fit but on cultural contributions.
    (Cultural fit tends to be people who think a similar way. Originality is not from people who match the culture but from those who enrich it. Identify backgrounds, skill sets, personality traits, that are missing from your culture and place a premium on those attributes in the hiring process.)
  • Shift from exit interviews to entry interviews.
  • Ask for problems, not solutions.
  • Stop assigning devil’s advocates and start unearthing them.
    (Dissenting opinions are useful even when they’re wrong, but they’re only effective if they’re authentic and consistent. Instead of assigning people to hold an opposing view find people who genuinely hold minority opinions and invite them to present their views.)
  • Welcome criticism.

Parent and teacher actions

  • Ask children what their role models would do.
  • Link good behaviors to moral character.
  • Explain how bad behaviors have consequences for others.
  • Emphasize values over rules.
  • Create novel niches for children to pursue.

Being original is an act of vulnerability. It means you are willing to engage in the unknown.

Let’s encourage vulnerability in others by leading in our example.

Photo by Tim Hüfner on Unsplash.

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