“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” George Bernard Shaw
This is the opening quote for Adam Grant’s book – “Originals – How non conformists change the world”. “Originals” is a great read. It’s full of catchy metaphors, analogies, anecdotes and stories.
Of course, whilst most of the book is based on existing research, it still pertains the subjective opinion of the author and it is in no way an academic book with contrasting viewpoints. Rather, it is a book about what Grant learned about originality in all his years as a social reseacher. And I would recommend it as a read.
Recommendations, however, don’t tell us much about books apart from the fact that they were enjoyed by the people who recommended them. They might hint to the interests of the recommenders as well. What one needs in order to decide to read a book is a bit of a sneak peak, an insight or some highlights. So, if you’re wondering whether Originals is worth a read or not, why not read the following highlights and decide if any sparks your reading interest.
Chapter 1 – Finding the faults in defaults.
Stunning results from a social research study revealed that “employees who used Firefox of Chrome to browse the Web remained in their jobs 15 percent longer than those who used Internet Explorer or Safari”. They also had higher sales and higher satisfaction levels. The reason behind this is the characteristics that Firefox or Chrome users exhibited : resourcefulness and initiative. Explorer and Safari are the default browsers. To get the other ones you had to question the default browsers and be resourceful in downloading new ones yourself. Original people are the ones who question the status quo, challenge it and try to find alternatives.
Chapter 3 – Speaking Truth to Power
Carmen Medina, a CIA analyst in the 1990s, a minority ethnic woman in the organisation, proposed that classified documents should be communicated via a classified Internet for ease of access, a very countercultural suggestion as CIA was used to printing reports. Her superiors and colleagues opposed the idea. But she kept communicating her idea, building alliances and raising in status until the CIA created the first Intranet system for the origanisation, Intellipedia. When you are an Original, it is hard to promote your original idea. People are resistant to change. The best thing to do is to familiarise your audience with your idea and keep communicating it. Often originals undercommunicate their ideas. Acquiring status or credibility is also very important.
Chapter 4 – Fools Rush In
”It’s true that the early bird gets the worm, but we can’t forget that the early worm gets caught.”
Grant wondered: is procrastination a source for originality? The answer: yes, of course, moderately. Moderate procrastinators were the most creative people in the room in a study conducted by a doctoral student, Jihae Shin. Grant gives examples of other famous procrastinators like Martin Luther King who was still editing his famous speech before delivering it and improvised the “I have a dream” part. But rather than me writing about this, how about you listen to Grant speak about the creative power of procrastination through his TED Talk:
You might question and challenge Adam Grant’s findings. You might even not really like the book. But there’s beauty in realising that originality is something we choose rather than something we are born with, that it takes effort and that it is common. We just need to get in the right mindset and allow us some moderate procrastination time.