Here are my Lessons and Takeaways from Originals: How Non-conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

Adam-Grant-cover-OriginalsTherefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
George Bernard Shaw, quoted in Originals

The last time you had an original idea, what did you do with it?
Adam Grant, Originals


Last Friday, I presented my synopsis of the new book by Adam Grant, Originals: How Non-conformists Move the World at the First Friday Book Synopsis, our monthly gathering in Dallas.

I began by asking everyone to write three words in the left margin of the handout:

page from my synopsis handout
page from my synopsis handout

“Somebody was first.”

And then I reminded them that for the next breakthrough, “Somebody will be first.”

The idea of the book is simple: the world is stuck in the status quo until the next new original comes up with the next workable original idea.

When I asked “why is this book worth our time?,” I answered:

#1 – Originals is the story of people, from multiple arenas, who are original; and the story of their originality – the approaches, products, breakthroughs that have helped move the world forward. This is an important story to grasp.
#2 – Originals is something of a template, teaching us all how to become more of an original. (Hint: it starts with being a non-conformist).
#3 – Originals is the latest warning to all of us who champion the status quo – without even realizing that we do so.

Here is what Adam Grant says about “originality”:

By my definition, originality involves introducing and advancing an idea that’s relatively unusual within a particular domain, and that has the potential to improve it.

Here are some of the principles I pulled from the book (I list more in my synopsis):

  • Enemies turned are “better” than allies who are always allies
  • “Question the default” (and then, maybe abandon the default)
  • Be a risk-avoiding risk-taker
  • Read “mythos” books (especially when young)
  • Genuine dissenters are better than devil’s advocates (better than “fake dissenters”).
  • You need a lot – a whole, whole lot! – of ideas, and products, and symphonies, and patents, and…
  • Beware of confirmation bias
  • Demand problem identification, even without solution identification!

And, here are my five lessons and takeaways:

#1 — The status quo is in real, perpetual trouble. Be wary of being trapped in and with the status quo. (Warning: The more expertise you gain in a narrow area, the more blind you become to your own commitment to the status quo).
#2 — Originals, with their originality, will be the ones who defeat and surpass the status quo. (And when the paradigm shifts…).
#3 — Practice idea generation. Generate lots and lots of ideas. Constantly. It takes a lot of ideas – a whole lot! – to come up with the really good ideas. The future belongs to idea generators who are also very good idea selectors.
#4 — And, become an accomplished problem finder. Find the problems; share what you have found. Then, you and others can work on solutions.
#5 — People are distracted, and not paying attention – repeat your key message(s) over and over and over and over again.

I have read seemingly countless books on innovation and creativity… This book pulls from many studies, and helps us understand with more depth why “originals” move the world forward. This book is worth reading – absolutely!


My synopsis of this book, with my comprehensive multi-page handout and the audio recording of my presentation, is already available on our companion site, I think you would find it useful.


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