“Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.” – George Bernard Shaw
Many of us want to be originals but have the deep-seated belief that it is a field littered with highly talented individuals, outstanding personalities who have simply refused to embrace the status quo. Adam Grant, in his readable and insightful book Originals, argues that anyone can innovate and excel with the right blueprint for fighting convention.
Our assumptions about nonconformist innovators being bold, young risk-takers who live a constant flow of amazing days are plain wrong. In fact, innovators are often cautious late adopters. Their masterworks emerge because they have produced a vast quantity of work over time. They “procrastinate strategically…testing and refining different possibilities” before making breakthroughs.
Like Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers – a book that’s often quoted for championing hard work over nature as a determinant of talent – Grant’s book promotes ability as a pure product of experience. Younger siblings are likelier to be “originals” because being surrounded by authority figures conditions them to rebel. The list of all-time greats for stealing bases – a bold move in baseball – includes only a few first-born children.
Originals can sometimes feel overwhelming with its sheer quantity of ideas and examples, but Grant’s optimism about our potential to improve ourselves and the companies we work with is needed in this age of negativity. The final summary features 30 “actions for impact,” but the strength of this book lies in the stories and real-life examples.
For instance, Babble, on online magazine about parenting, raised millions in funding because founder Rufus Griscom began every pitch by telling audiences why they should not back him. This original approach immediately disarmed the natural skepticism of possible investors, allowing them to see Griscom as an honest businessman rather than just another sales guy.
Adam Grant is a terrific writer, a gem-cutting anecdote selector of real-life stories that illuminate his points with a breezy, swallow-it-in-a-gulp momentum. Originals is highly recommended because it marries sound research and insightful anecdotes, adding up to an entertaining read that might also help you become an original.