June 29, 2018

Book Reflection: Originals by Adam Grant

I've been wanting to read this book for a while. I finally got around to reading it after I found a copy in the library.

Originals by Adam Grant
Originals by Adam Grant

Some of the things that stood out to me include using the reverse elevator pitch to help you champion your own creative ideas, looking to hire people who will contribute to the culture instead of just someone who will fit the culture and how parents can help shape original thinking in their children. 

The "reverse" elevator pitch

It's normal for people to go hard and oversell during an elevator pitch. It may be the one shot to talk and highlight the strengths of the very thing you are trying to pitch (be it an startup, a project you need green-lighted or even a promotion for yourself). A reverse elevator pitch is the opposite - you highlight the weaknesses instead.

The thought of highlighting the weaknesses seems counter intuitive. However, Mr Grant points out that highlighting the negatives shows a keen sense of knowing what the potential pitfalls are. It shows that the person is aware of what they need to work on, will have a game plan for it and will not be afraid to ask for help from smart people.

This process also helps one to champion your own creative ideas with a group of people. It makes the people who will criticize to think twice as hard for a reason why an idea may fail since the creator has already done the initial tear down. Having to do this extra work to point out the negatives also makes the positive traits "pop".

Hire for culture contribution, not culture fit

So many times, we look to hire people who we think will fit well with the company culture. While this is not necessarily bad, in the long run, it can limit original thinking as like-minded people will look to maintain the culture and not rock the boat.

Culture is a living organism that should be evolving and changing for the better. A company that is stuck in its ways will have difficulty achieving long term success.

For companies that want to breed original thinking, building diverse teams with people who can add and contribute to the company culture is more important than hiring someone who will fit seamlessly with others. 

Having a strong vision for the company should keep everyone on the same page and having different view points will enable the company to find different and creative ways to achieve their goals.

The role of parents in developing original thinking

I wasn't surprised to read that birth order affects original thinking. All children try and fill their own niche in order to stand out and be different in the eyes of their parents and others. 

Parents also tend to assign more responsibility to older children and allow younger children more freedom as they themselves learn that children don't need to be protected and sheltered as much. 

Because of this, younger siblings are more risk takers and more prone to think creatively.

As parents, we can nurture originality by giving all our kids, regardless of birth order, a longer leash to explore on their own. Along with providing this freedom, parents also need to help build their moral compass so that children don't do things that hurt themselves and others.

Having heroes that children can aspire towards can help. Even fictional heroes (like Harry Potter for instance) can help teach children to think creatively, act with grit and treat others in a just and fair manner.

Final thoughts

I was expecting this book to be a great read for individuals, managers and leaders but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a great read too for parents.

Mr Grant does a great job of weaving a narrative that is easy to follow and yet still heavily based on data and past academic studies.

I particularly liked the last part of the book called "Actions for Impact". It's a summary of all the key points made in the book and a great starting point for anyone who wants to incorporate any of the lessons learned from the book into their day to day lives as an individual, leader or parent/teacher.