BOOK REVIEW: Originals by Adam Grant

    Book review

    Originals by Adam Grant

    How non-conformist change the world

    orig.i.nal, n A thing of singular* or unique character; a person who is different from other people in an appealing or interesting way; a person of fresh initiative or inventive capacity

    *Sherlock Holmes fans know our most beloved detective regularly used this word: singular. Why this crossed my mind now, have no idea, but come to think of it Holmes was quite Original, don’t you think?

    To put it quite simply, the hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists, because paradoxically people who suffer the most from a given state of affairs are the least likely to question, challenge, reject or change it – you have witnessed this many time over, I’ll bet.

    Years ago, physiologists discovered that there are two routes to achievement—conformity and originality. The former means following the crowd [you know if one always prefers to go to the packed restaurants, where everybody else go] and maintain the status quo. Originals, tend to take the road less traveled, but hello do not automatically assume all of these people are great risk takers. Since, this sounds somewhat contradictory, read Adam Grant’s book, as he really takes an effort to explain this.

    And make no mistake, you don’t have to be born creative to be an original, although majority of people connect creativity exclusively with arts. But being creative is so much more: re-arranging flowers in the vase, thinking about new ways of improving a business process, making up stories for your children on the fly. But also the truth is those interested in the arts—entrepreneurs, inventors, eminent scientists—have greater curiosity and aptitude.

    We tend to assume that the people who change the world were either child prodigies from an early age, or bold risk takers who were not afraid to pursue their dreams. Both assumptions are wrong. Child prodigies are rarely the ones who go on to change the world. They don’t learn to be original and only a fraction of them go on to become revolutionary adult creators. Nor does originality require extreme risk taking. Studies of entrepreneurs show that those who were more cautious, staying in their day jobs while pursuing their new idea on the side, had 33% LOWER odds of failure than those who quit their day jobs to focus on the new venture full time. Here is an example. The famous JUST DO IT founder, yes Phil Knight, founder of Nike, started selling shoes out of the trunk of his car in 1964 but kept his day job as an accountant until 1969. The most successful originals don’t leap off a cliff without looking—they tiptoe to the edge, triple-check their parachutes, and make sure there’s a safety net at the bottom, just in case. Also, judging from my own experience, you can develop such a trait. After I have fallen down sooooo many times because I was jumping off the cliff very confidently (it is actually not my fault, I am AriesJ), this is what I do today: triple check my options all the time, make sure I have at least 3 safety nets at bottom (Option A, Option B and Option C – side note, love all of the options, no matter the outcome) and then elegantly fly with the wind.

    Seriously, the book will shutter your prejudices about what non-conformist actually mean, and I bet you some of you will actually discover you can start calling yourself The Original. Well helloooo, fellow Original, nice to meet you and welcome to the gang.

    Here is one of the stories that quite nicely samples the whole book:

    Why do some customer service agents stay in their jobs longer than others? Economist Michael Housman tried to find out by looking at data from over 30,000 employees who handled customer service phone calls across a range of industries. The one surprising correlation he found was that employees who used Firefox or Chrome as their internet browser remained in their jobs 15% longer than those who used Explorer or Safari. Further digging revealed the reason why: Explorer is the default browser for Windows, and Safari is the default for Mac users. Employees who accept the default browser treat their jobs the same way, accepting the job descriptions as fixed. When they are unhappy at work, they quit. But, employees who use Firefox or Chrome have taken the initiative to download a different browser. They tend to be more resourceful at work, looking for ways to do things better; and as a result, they stay in the job longer.

    Perhaps Malcom Gladwell summarized it best [shameless copying his review: it seems he has a better way with words than meJ]

    “Reading Originals made me feel like I was seated across from Adam Grant at a dinner party, as one of my favorite thinkers thrilled me with his insights and his wonderfully new take on the world.” —Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers and The Tipping Point.

    And I would like to finish with this quote in the book (by the way, it is filled with quotes, thoughts and research of other people, all neatly presented in the footnotes, which allows further research. By now you have learned Originals tend to do that). So, Mellody Hobson, renowned American businesswoman has said: “There are so few originals in life, because people are afraid to speak up and stand out”. 

    Perhaps this book can encourage and inspire more people to think of themselves as Originals and do the necessary.

    Link on Amazon, where you Originals Kindle version:

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