Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World Summary

Erik Book Review, Personal Development and Psychology, Thoughts of a Mastermind 2 Comments


originals, by adam grantOn my way to completing my goal of reading 75 books in 2017, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, by Adam Grant, was the first book I finished. Originals is about how creative thinking happens, what we can do to become more creative and innovative, and also provides some strategies for dealing with emotions in different situations. Originals was very fun and informative to read. Adam Grant, the author, has been the top-rated professor at The Wharton School of Business in Pennsylvania for the last 5 years, and has been recognized for influential management thinking.

I was interested in reading Originals because I’m trying to become more creative and original myself. In my day job, I’m a statistician, which, frankly, I don’t need to be too creative to perform well. Outside of my day job though, I want to someday own my own business and will have to be original in my thinking when that day comes.

Summary of Originals

In Originals, Grant discusses the concepts of originality and conformity. To be original, Grant argues, is to be constantly challenging the status quo and the defaults. While it is much easier to conform, by conforming, you will not be producing unique work.

For producing original work, Grant talks about many different ways we can force ourselves into creative thought:

  • Questioning the default
    • Ask questions like “What is this wasn’t the correct way to think about the world?” and “Why is the world this way?”
  • Triple the ideas you create
    • The odds of producing a genius result by only trying a few times is slim to none.
  • Welcome criticism and seek more feedback from peers
    • By getting other people’s perspective on a situation, you can improve your perspective on the situation.
  • Think about the opposite
    • This opens your mind to potential downfalls of your plan.
  • Think about what our enemies would do
    • This awakens an urgency to stay competitive.
  • Immerse yourself in a new domain
    • By doing this, you can draw parallels to your current situation and adapt.

My Takeaways

After reading Originals, I’m very excited to keep writing posts for this blog. As the second point above says, to be original, we need to keep creating content. If I create high-quality content and produce a lot of it, I’m sure people will start following.

Lots and Lots of Notes

Originals has a lot of great information and is very informative. I took about 3-4 pages of notes on this book! I’ve tried to condense them down a little bit. Here are some passages, quotes, and key takeaways I had from Originals:

  • ┬áThe odds of producing an influential or successful result are a positive function of the total number of ideas generated. If you want to be original, the most important thing to do is a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work.
  • Power involves exercising control or authority over others. Status is being respected and admired.
    • You will be punished for trying to exercise power without status.
    • Status cannot be claimed, it must be earned or granted.
  • When giving a sales pitch, use the following strategy: if you have support, go with your strengths. If you don’t have support, lead with your weaknesses.
    • Leading with your weaknesses will:
      • Disarm the other people
      • Make you look smart, shows you can see both sides
      • Shows you are trustworthy and will give the audience a more favorable view
  • When we have a supportive boss, our bond within the organization strengthens and we feel a greater span of influence.
  • Managers who have a track record of challenging the status quo tend to be more open to new ideas.
    • The best we can do is voice our opinions and secure our risk portfolios, preparing for exit if necessary
  • Middle-status conformity leads us to choose the safety of the tried-and-true over the danger of the original.
  • Sometimes it is best to procrastinate!
    • You cannot produce a work of genius according to a schedule or a deadline.
    • Once a task is finished, we stop thinking about it. But when it is interrupted and left undone, it stays active in our minds.
  • Timing accounted for 42% of the difference between success and failure in start-up companies.
    • Pioneers (the first companies in a particular industry) were about 6 times more likely to fail than settlers.
    • Being original doesn’t require being first. It requires being different and better.
    • 3 out of every 4 fail because of premature scaling – making investments that the market isn’t ready to support.
  • To sustain our originality as we age and accumulative expertise, our best bet is to adopt an experimental approach.
    • The more experiments you run, the less constrained you become by your ideas from the past.
  • We assume that common goals bond groups together, but the reality is they often drive groups apart.
    • Shared tactics are an important predictor of alliances.
    • Ambivalent relationships are unhealthier than negative ones.
      • Cut our frenemies and try to convert our enemies.
      • Best allies are the ones who started out against us and then came to our side.
  • Lessons on persuading potential partners to join forces:
    • Think differently about values
      • Ought to present our values as a means of pursuing theirs.
      • It’s much easier to link our agendas to familiar values that people already hold.
    • You need to re-frame the argument to comply with the other person’s lens
  • How to find a new idea: think of something unrelated, then add something familiar. This produces something novel and useful.
  • When dealing with children who aren’t behaving:
    • Give explanations of why behaviors are inappropriate and reference to their consequences for others.
    • Emphasize the consequences to others
    • Character praise is much more effective than action praise.
      • “Don’t Drink and Drive” is not as effective as “Don’t be a Drunk Driver”.
  • The greatest tragedy of all time comes from the inability to have thoughtful disagreement to find out what’s true.
  • Argue like you are right and listen like you are wrong.
  • Practice brutal non-hierarchial honesty.
  • On dealing with emotions:
    • The trick is to make fear your friend. Fear forces you to prepare more rigorously and see potential problems more quickly.
    • Try to get excited vs. trying to remain calm
    • If committed to an action or cause, be a defensive pessimist.
    • Once we set our mind to go forward, envisioning the worst case scenario enables us to harness anxiety as a source of motivation to prepare and succeed.
    • Using humor can also help turn fear into motivation.
  • If you want people to take risks, you need to first show what is wrong with the present.
    • There has to be an urgency in adopting change.

Have you read Originals or Adam Grant’s other book, Give and Take? I plan to read Give and Take later this year. There are so many good books out there! Thanks for stopping by!


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Comments 2

  1. Hi Erik,
    Thanks for posting your review. What was the biggest thing from the book that you’ll apply going forward?

    I’ll likely add it to my reserve list of books – the last chapter on rocking the boat looks interesting to me.

    Best wishes,

    1. Post

      DL, My biggest takeaways were challenging the default, and producing more ideas (even if they are bad ones).

      By asking questions such as, “Why is it this way, or what can I do to be better, or even, what other possibilities are there?”, you can come up with a lot of ideas which will, following one of the points in the book, likely produce something very original and creative.

      Thanks for the comment,

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