ORIGINALS: HOW NON-COMFORMISTS MOVE THE WORLD by Adam Grant
Honestly, I was a bit nervous about reading this book. As an average-height, white guy in my 40s, who only buys one type of shirt (Banana Republic, non-iron slim fit), I assumed it would tell me all the ways I’m not original. But, the author is smart, and provided an early illustration of originality that I could relate to by analyzing worker behaviors through their browser choices. And, as a former Firefox and current Chrome user, I was instantly redeemed. Maybe there was some hope for me yet.
As you may expect, the author describes the link between curiosity and artistic aptitude among entrepreneurs, inventors, and scientists. But he does provide alternative point of views to several entrepreneurial norms that people assume are true.
First mover disadvantage. Statistically, there is a 47% failure rate for first movers, or pioneers, vs. 7% for settlers, who wait for the market to be established. We have seen so many examples of this over time, Microsoft comes to mind, that I believe this rings true. However, as entrepreneurs we are striving for the newest, most unique solution and making success even harder. When originals rush to be pioneers, the results are usually catastrophic. The fast-follower strategy we learned back in B-school, while much less sexy, still holds value.
No risk, no reward. Actually, the book presents several examples of balanced risk. Using a portfolio approach, provide a balance of projects with different risk estimations. Going for the home run, ensure you have some base hits ready to go as well.
Another theory presented in the book I wanted to embrace is procrastination might be conductive to originality. Instead of focusing on a solution from the get-go, a procrastinator is thinking about all possible solutions and open to adapting. Interesting concept, but I’m not 100% sold. When they say success is 1% inspiration and 99% execution, procrastinators may be shorting the necessary 99%. However, is success (or even productivity) the goal of originality? If you can be original but not productive, is it worth it?
Last, as a parent of three young kids, I’m always on the looking for parenting tips and Adam Grant has a couple of good nuggets. I liked the concept of encouraging kids to choose their own values. We are parlaying this concept into a family values exercise and posting in each of our rooms to keep them top of mind.
I enjoyed the inspiration and contrarian perspective the book provided and the stories used to reinforce the theories. Great read when you need to break out of thinking rut and reset some of your views.
There is always something to be learned from reading. When not working, there’s an 85%
chance you’ll find me reading. Reading has helped me become a better writer, a better design, and, after finishing Adam Grant’s Originals, hopefully a better innovator.
I was thrilled by the idea of a work-inspired book club, and picked Originals as the perfect inspirational, optimistic nonfiction read to pump us up for the start of the new year. Unfortunately, by acquiring it at the beginning of 2018, I proceeded to nearly immediately break my original New Year’s Resolution: Stop buying so many damn books. You win some, you lose some.
Innovators—the big-time innovators—are individuals with the power to shift the world, and those whom Grant encourages us all to be. Innovators, or “originals” as he deems them, can have meaningful impacts on their local or international community due to their creative perspectives and introduction of new ideas. Original ideas. Grant shares with us, via research, studies, stories, and examples, the ways in which we can all engage in original behavior and challenge the status quo, in all aspects of our lives.
He delves into strategies and exercises that, if embraced, can help push us out of our comfort zones and make things happen. Thus far, 2018 could certainly use a bit of TLC in this regard, making Originals far and wide a very relevant read. Grant’s writing style is relatable, informative, and easy to digest without being overly cheesy—a crucial factor to consider when picking up any “self-help” book. I’ve read some truly cringe-worthy stuff out there, and can say this read is a refreshing exception and truly thought-provoking.
I was introduced to a lot of new approaches I hope to incorporate within my work life, as well as ones that fell wonderfully into the category of my personal confirmation biases. Those who use Firefox or Chrome as their web-browser are often more efficient and successful than those who use their default option. Check! Procrastinating can be a goodthing. Double-check!
As I am clearly on my way to being a successful innovator already, you certainly can as well. Pick up Adam Grant’s Originals if you’re looking for a change of pace in your thought-process and how it can lead to great, great things.