Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, by Adam Grant

Another solid gift from my wife. Is there anything hotter than a hot wife who gifts good books?  


Creative Destruction: The risky business of going against the grain

“On matters of style, swim with the current,” Thomas Jefferson allegedly advised, “on matters of principal, stand like a rock" (pg 13).

With the base notion that there are infact very few original ideas, and because if one is TOO radical in their style and expression that they are rarely if ever heard (thus losing their voice to whatever it is they’re actually trying to say), swim with the current – don’t fight against it. Be unique, pursue aristic expression, but also embrace and accept the times we find ourselves in. 

But when those currents begin to shape our principals – our convictions of morality and truth – stand like a rock. Have integrity. Be authentic.


Blind Inventors and One-Eyed Investors: The art and science of recognizing original ideas

"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams (pg 29)


Simonton finds that on average, creative geniuses weren’t qualitatively better in their fields than their peer. They simply produced a greater volume of work, which gave them more variation and a higher chance of originality. “The odds of producing an influential or successful idea,” Simonton notes, are “a positive function of the number of ideas generated.” – pg 35

Consider Shakespeare, Mozart, Beethovan, Picaso and Maya Angelou – we celebrate their great works, but these are the peaks to the mountains of works they’ve produced.

“Original thinkers,” Robert Sutton notes, “will come up with many ideas that are strange mutations, dead ends, and utter failures. The cost is worthwhile because they also generate a larger pool of ideas – especially novel ideas.”

Many people fail to achieve originality because they generate a few ideas and then obsess about refining them to perfection. (pg 37)


An American gained little from working in Canada . . .

In isolation, this is a great quote to share with an AP class that has two Canadians, but in context, it makes much more sense.  A few sentences before the passage reads, “The most creative fashion collections came from houses where directors had the greatest experience abroad, but there were three twists. First, time living abroud didn’t matter: it was time working abroad, being actively engaged in design in a foreign country, that predicted whether their new collections were hits. Second, the more the foreign culture differed from that of their native land, the more that experience contributed to the directors’ creativity. An American gained little from working in Canada, compared to the originality dividends of a project in Kora or Japan. (pg 49).

It’s all about context.


Out on a Limb: Speaking truth to power

People think an amateur can appreciate art, but it takes a professional to critique it. Merely changing a handful of words from positive to negative was sufficient to make the critical reviewer sound smarter. “Prophets of doom and gloom appear wise and insightful while positive statements are seen as have a naïve quality. (pg 72)

This is discouraging. Because it’s true – often times. There are many thoughts rolling around for me, but really, the main takeaway is this: I want to be the type of person who can professionally critique art, habits, teaching strategies, whatever, by articulating what I LIKE about it just as much, if not more so, as what I dislike about it.


Fools Rush In: Timing, strategic procrastination, and the first-mover disadvantage

Being original doesn’t mean require being first. It just means being different and better. (pg 105)


Goldilocks and the Trojan HorseCreating and maintaining coalitions

“Horizontal hostility” : The minor differences in people who are otherwise alike that form the basis of feelings of strangeness and hostility between them (pg 117)

Like vegans and vegetarians. Compared to much of the world, they are very much alike, but because they are so much alike, they can often find horizontal hostility because the other isn’t doing it right and therefore tainting it – “making us look bad.”

We compete with those who are similar, not those in different camps.


“Make the world better.” – Lucy Stone


Rethinking GroupthinkThe myths of strong cultures, cults, and devil's advocates

The greatest tragedy of mankind comes from the inability to have thoughtful disagreement to find out what’s true. Through the process of open-minded debate, Dalio expects employees to reconcile their differences – to “have strong opinions, weakly held.”  (pg 195)

The fight to stay in sync. This is Unity, and it guards against uniformity – the death of creativity and originality.

“Argue like you’re right, listen like you’re wrong” pg 201


If you’re going to tell the emperor he has no clothes, you’d better be a good tailor . . . or know someone who is (pg 197)

Devil's Advocate: 

The concept dates back to 1587, when Pope Sixtus V instituted a new process for vetting candidates for sainthood into the Roman Catholic Church. He assigned a promotor fidei, or promotor of the faith, to oppose canonization by critically evaluating the character of candidates and challenging claims of miracles they had performed. The promoter of the faith august against the advocates Dei, God's advocate, and became known as the devil's advocate

The "devil's advocate" was in a position to PROMOTE THE FAITH - seek Truth, or ensure that what was happening, the direction they were going, the claims that were being made, were TRUE!  They didn't argue for the sake of arguing or sounding smart or ruffling feathers, but to maintain Truth's purity. In this, they were unified, even though, I'm sure, they caused and stirred conflict. 

Rocking the Boat and Keeping it SteadyManaging anxiety, apathy, ambivalence, and anger

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it . . . the brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela


Without a sense of urgency, people . . . won’t make needed sacrifices. Instead, they cling to the status quo and resist. ( pg 232)

To counter apathy, most change agents focus on presenting an inspiring vision of the future. This is an importantmessage to convey, but its not the type of communication that should come first. If you want people to take risks, you need first to show what’s wrong with the present/ To drive people out of their comfort zones, you have to cultivate dissatisfaction, frustration, or anger at the current state of affairs, making it a guaranteed loss. “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 “the gap as big as possible.” (pg 234)


Venting doesn’t extinguish the flame of anger, it feeds it (pg 240) When we are angry at others, we aim for retaliation or revenge. But when we’re angry for others, we seek out justice and a better system. We don’t want to punish; we want to help. (pg 242).


“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it difficult to plan the day.” (E.B. White) pg 242


Actions for Impact:


Individual action:

1.     Question the default

2.     Triple the number of ideas you generate

13.  Focus on victim, not perpetrator


Leadership action:

4.     Emphasize values over rule


For more on . . .

Reading List 2017  :  Non-fiction reads  :  Books (recommended by others)