In Originals, author Adam Grant describes the character traits of original thinkers and common threads that led to successful ideas/movements. He draws from women’s suffrage leaders, activists, and inventors to piece together a narrative of what it means to be original. He lays out specific suggestions for how you can encourage more originality in your work and how to avoid common pitfalls like groupthink. If you liked Give and Take, you’ll enjoy this one.
On being too risk averse to new ideas and rejecting ideas that will end up working.
Managers tend to be too risk averse. They focus on the costs of investing in bad ideas rather than the benefits of piloting good ones, which leads them to commit a large number of false negatives.
Adam describes the issue of being trapped in prototypes – comparing new ideas to prototypes that have showed promise in the past.
In the face of uncertainty, our first instinct is often to reject novelty, looking for reasons why unfamiliar concepts might fail. When managers vet novel ideas, they’re in an evaluative mindset. To protect themselves against the risk of a bad bet, the compare the new notion on the table to templates of ideas that have succeeded in the past.
This quote emphasized why it’s critical to overcommunicate your ideas.
You know the lyrics and the melody of your idea by heart. By that point, it’s no longer possible to imagine what it sounds like to an audience that’s listening to it for the first time. This explains why we undercommunicate our ideas. They’re already so familiar to us that we underestimate how much exposure an audience needs to comprehend and buy into them.
Middle status conformity – When you’re not a super high performer (with the credibility to fail) or a super low performer (with nothing to lose), workers tend to play it safe fearing they could lose it all.
Transparency isn’t always the best policy…Originals need to occasionally reframe their ideas to appeal to their audience. (Reference of smuggling women’s voting rights into discussions around home protection).
On combining the leader’s vision while connecting workers directly to the customer…
People are inspired to achieve the highest performance when leaders describe a vision and then allow customers to bring it to life with a personal story. The leader’s message provides an overarching vision to start the car, and the personal story steps on the accelerator.
Is it better to describe the benefits of changing or the potential losses of not changing?
It depends on whether they perceive the new behavior as safe or risky. If they think the behavior is safe, we should emphasize all of the good things that will happen if they do it…When people believe a behavior is risky, that approach doesn’t work. They’re already comfortable with the status quo so the benefits of change aren’t attractive and the stop system kicks in. Instead, we need to de-stabilize the status quo and emphasize the bad things that will happen if they don’t change…The prospect of a certain loss brings the go system online.
Create a gap between the amazing future you describe and the current state of affairs.
The greatest communicators of all time…start by establishing “What is…here’s the status quo.” Then, they compare that to what could be making that gap as big as possible.