Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World
Author: Grant, Adam
Grant, Adam. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. Penguin Publishing Group, 2016. Kindle file. Kindle file.
Notes by: Jacopo Perfetti.
Foreword by Sheryl Sandberg
success is not usually attained by being ahead of everyone else but by waiting patiently for the right time to act. And to my utter shock, I learned that procrastinating can be good.
In the deepest sense of the word, a friend is someone who sees more potential in you than you see in yourself, someone who helps you become the best version of yourself.
1: Creative Destruction (The Risky Business of Going Against the Grain)
“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
The students expected to sell a pair or two of glasses per day. But when GQ called them “the Netflix of eyewear,” they hit their target for the entire first year in less than a month, selling out so fast that they had to put twenty thousand customers on a waiting list. It took them nine months to stock enough inventory to meet the demand. Fast forward to 2015, when Fast Company released a list of the world’s most innovative companies.
By my definition, originality involves introducing and advancing an idea that’s relatively unusual within a
particular domain, and that has the potential to improve it.
Originality itself starts with creativity: generating a concept that is both novel and useful. But it doesn’t stop there. Originals are people who take the initiative to make their visions a reality.
economist Michael Housman was leading a project to figure out why some customer service agents stayed in their jobs longer than others.
To get Firefox or Chrome, you have to demonstrate some resourcefulness and download a different browser. Instead of accepting the default, you take a bit of initiative to seek out an option that might be better.
And that act of initiative, however tiny, is a window into what you do at work.
The employees who took the initiative to change their browsers to Firefox or Chrome approached their jobs differently.
When they encountered a situation they
didn’t like, they fixed it.
They created the jobs they wanted. But they were the exception, not the rule. We live in an Internet Explorer world.
Jost and his colleagues concluded: “People who suffer the most from a given state of affairs are paradoxically
the least likely to question, challenge, reject, or change it.”
The hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option
The starting point is curiosity: pondering why the default exists in the first place. We’re driven to question defaults when we experience vuja de, the opposite of déjà vu. Déjà vu occurs when we encounter something new, but it feels as if we’ve seen it before. Vuja de is the reverse—we face something familiar, but we see it with a fresh perspective that enables us to gain new insights into old problems.
When we become curious about the dissatisfying defaults in our world, we begin to recognize that most of them have social origins: Rules and systems were created
by people. And that awareness gives us the courage to contemplate how we can change them.
Child prodigies, it turns out, rarely go on to change the world. When psychologists study history’s most eminent and influential people, they discover that many of them weren’t unusually gifted as children.
Practice makes perfect, but it doesn’t make new.
The gifted learn to play magnificent Mozart melodies and beautiful Beethoven symphonies, but never compose their own original scores.
They focus their energy on consuming existing scientific knowledge, not producing new insights.
They conform to the codified rules of established games, rather than inventing their own rules or their own games.
The drive to succeed and the accompanying
fear of failure have held back some of the greatest creators and change agents in history.
astronomy stagnated for decades because Nicolaus Copernicus refused to publish his original discovery that the earth revolves around the sun. Fearing rejection and ridicule, he stayed silent for twenty-two years, circulating his findings only to his friends.
His magnum opus only saw the light of day after a young mathematics professor took matters into his own hands and submitted it for publication.
As economist Joseph Schumpeter famously observed, originality is an act of creative destruction. Advocating for new systems often requires demolishing
the old way of doing things, and we hold back for fear of rocking the boat.
“On matters of style, swim with the current,” Thomas Jefferson allegedly advised, but “on matters of principle, stand like a rock.”
The pressure to achieve leads us to do the opposite. We find surface ways of appearing original—donning a bow tie, wearing bright red shoes—without taking the risk of actually being original.
The word entrepreneur, as it was coined by economist Richard Cantillon, literally means “bearer of risk.”
Entrepreneurs who kept their day jobs had 33 percent lower odds of failure than those who quit.
If you’re risk averse and have some doubts about the feasibility of your ideas, it’s likely that your business will be built to last. If you’re a freewheeling gambler, your startup is far more fragile.
Former track star Phil Knight started selling running shoes out of the trunk of his car in 1964, yet kept working as an accountant until 1969.
And although Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin figured out how to dramatically improve internet searches in 1996, they didn’t go on leave from their graduate studies at Stanford
until 1998. “We almost didn’t start Google,” Page says, because we “were too worried about dropping out of our Ph.D. program.” In 1997, concerned that their fledgling search engine was distracting them from their research, they tried to sell Google for less than $ 2 million in cash and stock. Luckily for them, the potential buyer rejected the offer.
Why did all these originals play it safe instead of risking it all?
Clyde Coombs developed an innovative theory of risk. In the stock market, if you’re going to make a risky investment, you protect yourself by playing it safe in other investments. Coombs suggested that in their daily lives, successful people do the same thing with risks, balancing them
out in a portfolio. When we embrace danger in one domain, we offset our overall level of risk by exercising caution in another domain.
Risk portfolios
explain why people often become original in one part of their lives while remaining quite conventional in others.
Polaroid founder Edwin Land remarked, “No person could possibly be original in one area unless he were possessed of the emotional and social stability that comes from fixed attitudes in all areas other than the one in which he is being original.”
Having a sense of security in one realm gives us the freedom to be original in another.
Having backup plans gave the founders the courage to base their business on the unproven assumption that people would be willing to buy glasses online.
Malcolm Gladwell wrote in the New Yorker, “Many entrepreneurs take plenty of risks—but those are generally the failed entrepreneurs, not the success stories.”
begin by questioning defaults and balancing risk portfolios,
some of the greatest creative achievements and change initiatives in history have their roots in procrastination,
2: Blind Inventors and One-Eyed Investors (The Art and Science of Recognizing Original Ideas)
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” Scott Adams
At the turn of the century, an invention took Silicon Valley by storm. Steve Jobs called it the most amazing piece of technology since the personal computer. Enamored with the prototype, Jobs offered the inventor $ 63 million for 10 percent of the company.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos took one look at the product and immediately got involved, telling the inventor, “You have a product so revolutionary, you’ll have no
John Doerr, the legendary investor who bet successfully on Google and many other blue-chip startups, pumped $ 80 million into the business,
The inventor himself was described as a modern Thomas Edison—
Time called it one of the ten biggest technology flops of the decade.
the biggest barrier to originality is not idea generation—it’s idea selection.
The Segway was a false positive: it was forecast as a hit but turned out to be a miss.
Seinfeld was a false negative: it was expected to fail but ultimately flourished.
Social scientists have long known that we tend to be overconfident when we evaluate ourselves.
When we’ve developed an idea, we’re typically too close to our own tastes—and too far from the audience’s taste—to evaluate it accurately.
But even when they do learn about their audience’s preferences, it’s too easy for them to fall victim to what psychologists call confirmation bias: they focus on the strengths of their ideas while ignoring or discounting their limitations.
Picasso was painting his famous Guernica in protest of fascism, he produced seventy-nine different drawings.
They simply produced a greater volume of work, which gave them more variation and a higher chance of originality.
To generate a handful of masterworks, Mozart composed more than 600 pieces before his death at thirty-five, Beethoven produced 650 in his lifetime, and Bach wrote over a thousand.
Picasso’s oeuvre includes more than 1,800 paintings, 1,200 sculptures, 2,800 ceramics, and 12,000 drawings, not to mention prints, rugs, and tapestries—
Einstein wrote papers on general and special relativity that transformed physics, but many of his 248 publications had minimal impact.
“the most important possible thing you could do,” says Ira Glass, the producer of This American Life and the podcast Serial, “is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work.”
Edison’s “1,093 patents notwithstanding, the number of truly superlative creative achievements can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand.”
when it comes to idea generation, quantity is the most predictable path to quality.
Many people fail to achieve originality because they generate a few ideas and then obsess about refining them to perfection.
Dean Kamen was aware of the blind variations that mark the creative process. With more than 440 patents to his name, he had plenty of misses as well as hits. “You gotta kiss a lot of frogs,” he often told his team, “before you find a prince.”
When developing the Segway, Dean Kamen didn’t open the door to this kind of feedback. Concerned that someone would steal his idea, or that the fundamental
concept would become public too soon, he maintained strict secrecy rules.
Conviction in our ideas is dangerous not only because it leaves us vulnerable to false positives, but also because it stops us from generating the requisite variety to reach our creative potential.
Managers tend to be too risk averse: they focus on the costs of investing in bad ideas rather than the benefits of piloting good ones, which leads them to commit a large number of false negatives.
In the face of uncertainty, our first instinct is often to reject novelty, looking for reasons why unfamiliar concepts might fail.
ideas that have succeeded in the past.
As we gain knowledge about a domain, we become prisoners of our prototypes.
audiences should be more open to novelty than managers. They don’t have the blinders associated with expertise, and they have little to lose by considering a fresh format and expressing enthusiasm for an unusual idea.
When you watch a show in your living room, you get absorbed in the plot. If you find yourself laughing throughout, you’ll end up pronouncing it funny. When you watch it in a focus group, however, you don’t engage with the program in the same way.
So neither test audiences nor managers are ideal judges of creative ideas. They’re too prone to false negatives; they focus too much on reasons to reject an idea and stick too closely to existing prototypes. And we’ve seen that creators struggle as well, because they’re too positive about their own ideas.
It is when people have moderate expertise in a particular domain that they’re the most open to radically creative ideas.
In a recent study comparing every Nobel Prize–winning scientist from 1901 to 2005 with typical scientists of the same era, both groups attained deep expertise in their respective fields of study. But the Nobel Prize winners were dramatically more likely to be
involved in the arts than less accomplished scientists.
People who are open to new ways of looking at science and business also tend to be fascinated by the expression of ideas and emotions through images, sounds, and words.*
When Galileo made his astonishing discovery of mountains on the moon, his telescope didn’t actually have enough magnifying power to support that finding. Instead, he recognized the zigzag pattern separating the light and dark areas of the moon. Other astronomers were looking through similar telescopes, but only Galileo “was able to appreciate the implications of the dark and light regions,” Simonton notes. He had the necessary depth of experience in physics and astronomy, but also breadth of experience in painting and drawing. Thanks to artistic training in a technique called chiaroscuro, which focuses on representations of light and shade, Galileo
Three major forces left him overconfident about the Segway’s potential: domain inexperience, hubris, and enthusiasm.
our intuitions are only accurate in domains where we have a lot of experience.
“There’s a hubris that comes with success,”
The more successful people have been in the past, the worse
they perform when they enter a new environment. They become overconfident, and they’re less likely to seek critical feedback even though the context is radically different.
Kamen was a more impressive inventor than entrepreneur. In the past, Kamen’s most successful inventions were a response to customers coming to him with a problem to solve.
In the case of the Segway, he started with a solution and then went hunting for a problem.
“It’s never the idea; it’s always the execution.”
3: Out on a Limb (Speaking Truth to Power)
As iconic filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola observed, “The way to come to power is not always to merely challenge the Establishment, but first make a place in it and then challenge and double-cross the Establishment.”
he presented a slide listing the top five reasons not to invest in his business.
the Sarick Effect,
leading with weaknesses disarms the audience.
Which version makes the reviewer sound smarter?
people rated the critical reviewer as 14 percent more intelligent, and having 16 percent greater literary expertise, than the complimentary reviewer.
This is the second benefit of leading with the limitations of an idea: it makes you look smart.*
The third advantage of being up front about the downsides of your ideas is that it makes you more trustworthy.
“The job of the investor is to figure out what’s wrong with the company. By telling them what’s wrong with the business model, I’m doing some of the work for them. It established trust,”
A fourth advantage of this approach is that it leaves audiences with a more favorable assessment of the idea itself, due to a bias in how we process information.
By acknowledging its most serious problems, he made it harder for investors to generate their own ideas about what was
wrong with the company.
Take a look at this list of familiar songs. Pick one of them and tap the rhythm to it on a table:
people thought it would be easy for a listener to guess it:
It’s humanly impossible to tap out the rhythm of a song without hearing the tune in your head.
“The listeners can’t hear that tune—all they can hear is a bunch of disconnected taps,
When you present a new suggestion, you’re not only hearing the tune in your head.
You wrote the song.
we often undercommunicate our ideas. They’re already so familiar to us that we underestimate how much exposure an audience needs to comprehend and buy into them.
we need to speak up about them, then rinse and repeat.
the more often we encounter something, the more we like it.
There is no such thing as the Sarick
Effect, and there was no social scientist named Leslie Sarick.
The mere exposure effect has been replicated many times—the more familiar a face, letter, number, sound, flavor, brand, or Chinese character becomes, the more we like it.
An unfamiliar idea requires more effort to understand. The more we see, hear, and touch it, the more comfortable we become with it, and the less threatening it is.
If you’re making a suggestion to a boss, you might start with a 30-second elevator pitch during a conversation on Tuesday, revisit it briefly the following Monday, and then ask for feedback at the end of the week.
Albert Hirschman, there are four different options for handling a dissatisfying situation.
Exit means removing yourself from the situation
Voice involves actively trying to improve the situation:
Persistence is gritting your teeth and bearing it: working hard
Neglect entails staying in the current situation but reducing your effort:
As a Google employee put it, disagreeable managers may have a bad user interface but a great operating system.
4: Fools Rush In (Timing, Strategic Procrastination, and the First-Mover Disadvantage)
“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.” Mark Twain
the advantages of acting quickly and being first are often outweighed by the disadvantages.
procrastination can be as much of a virtue as a vice, how first-mover entrepreneurs frequently face an uphill battle, why older innovators sometimes outdo younger ones, and why the leaders who drive change effectively are those who wait patiently for the right moment.
Procrastination may be the enemy of productivity, but it can be a resource for creativity.
da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa on and off for a few years starting in 1503, left it unfinished, and didn’t complete it until close to his death in 1519.
Da Vinci spent about fifteen years developing the ideas for The Last Supper while working on a variety of other projects.
the Zeigarnik effect. In 1927, Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik demonstrated that people have a better
memory for incomplete than complete tasks. Once a task is finished, we stop thinking about it. But when it is interrupted and left undone, it stays active in our minds. As Jones was comparing his early draft to the topic of that evening’s discussion, “something worked its way up from the depths of my subconscious.”*
Surprisingly, the downsides of being the first mover are frequently bigger than the upsides.
Despite raising around $ 250 million, Kozmo, the company Park founded, went bankrupt in 2001.
One study of over three thousand startups indicates that roughly three out of every four fail because of premature scaling—making investments that the market isn’t yet ready to support.
Since the market is more defined when settlers enter, they can focus on providing superior quality instead of deliberating about what to offer in the first place. “Wouldn’t you rather be second or third and see how the guy in first did, and then . . . improve it?”
When you’re the first to market, you have to make all the mistakes yourself. Meanwhile, settlers can watch and learn from your errors.
In the 1840s, when Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis discovered that having medical students wash their hands dramatically reduced death rates during childbirth, he was scorned by his colleagues and ended up in an asylum.
In film, for every Orson Welles, whose masterpiece Citizen Kane was his very first feature film at age twenty-five, there is an Alfred Hitchcock, who made his three most popular films three decades into his career,
at ages fifty-nine (Vertigo), sixty (North by Northwest), and sixty-one (Psycho). In poetry, for every E. E. Cummings, who penned his first influential poem at twenty-two and more than half of his best work before turning forty, there is a Robert Frost, who wrote 92 percent of his most reprinted poems after forty.
Good things come to those who wait, and for experimentalists, it’s never too late to become original.
5: Goldilocks and the Trojan Horse (Creating and Maintaining Coalitions)
Lucy Stone was the first woman in America to keep her own name after getting married. It was one of her many firsts: she was the first woman from Massachusetts to earn a bachelor’s degree. She was the first American to become a full-time lecturer for women’s rights, mobilizing countless supporters and converting numerous adversaries
how originals form alliances to advance their goals, and how to overcome the barriers that prevent coalitions from succeeding.
Lucy Stone’s conflict with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton shattered the most important alliance in the suffrage movement, nearly causing its demise.
To form alliances with opposing groups, it’s best to temper the cause, cooling it as much as possible.
We assume that common goals bind groups together, but the reality is that they often drive groups apart.
As Sigmund Freud wrote a century ago, “It is precisely the minor differences in people who are otherwise alike that form the basis of feelings of strangeness and hostility between them.”
Vegans showed
nearly three times as much prejudice toward vegetarians as vegetarians did toward vegans. In the eyes of the more extreme vegans, the mainstream vegetarians were wannabes:
horizontal hostility
they learn to tone down their radicalism by presenting their beliefs and ideas in ways that are less shocking and more appealing to mainstream audiences.
Coalitions often fall apart when people refuse to moderate their radicalism. That was one of the major failures of the Occupy Wall Street movement,
The Godfather: Part II, Michael Corleone advises, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”
frenemies—people who sometimes support you and sometimes undermine you.
Being undermined and supported by the same person meant even lower commitment and more work missed.* Negative relationships are unpleasant, but they’re predictable:
But when you’re dealing with an ambivalent relationship,
you’re constantly on guard, grappling with questions about when that person can actually be trusted.
“It takes more emotional energy and coping resources to deal with individuals who are inconsistent.”
In efforts to challenge the status quo, originals often ignore their opponents.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” philosopher George Santayana wrote.
6: Rebel with a Cause (How Siblings, Parents, and Mentors Nurture Originality)
later children may be born to rebel
Prior to Darwin, 56 of 117 laterborns believed in evolution, compared with only 9 of 103 firstborns.
We assume that younger scientists will be more receptive to rebellious ideas than older scientists, who become conservative and entrenched in their beliefs with age.
“An 80-year-old laterborn was as open to evolutionary theory as a 25-year-old firstborn,”
Similar results emerged when he studied thirty-one political revolutions: laterborns were twice as likely as firstborns to support radical changes.
According to eminent Stanford professor James March, when many of us make decisions, we follow a logic of consequence: Which course of action will produce the best result? If you’re like Robinson, and you consistently challenge the status quo, you operate differently, using instead a logic of appropriateness: What does a person like me do in a situation like this? Rather than looking outward in an attempt to predict the outcome, you turn inward to your identity. You base the decision on who you are—or who you want to be.
Hundreds of studies point to the same conclusion: although firstborns tend to be more dominant,
conscientious, and ambitious, laterborns are more open to taking risks and embracing original ideas. Firstborns tend to defend the status quo; laterborns are inclined to challenge it.*
Parents of highly creative children had an average of less than one rule and tended to “place emphasis on moral values, rather than on specific rules,” psychologist Teresa Amabile reports.
When mothers enforce many rules but offer a clear rationale for why they’re important, teenagers are substantially less likely to break them, because they internalize them.
a factor that distinguished the creative group was that their parents exercised discipline with explanations.
They outlined their standards of conduct and explained their grounding in a set of principles about right and wrong, referencing values like morality, integrity, respect, curiosity, and perseverance.
Reasoning does create a paradox: it leads both to more rule following and more rebelliousness. By explaining moral principles, parents encourage their children to comply voluntarily with rules that align with important values and to question rules that don’t.
Highlighting consequences for others directs attention to the distress of the person who may be harmed by an individual’s behavior, fueling empathy for her. It also helps children understand the role that
their own actions played in causing the harm, resulting in guilt. As Erma Bombeck put it, “Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving.”
The dual moral emotions of empathy and guilt activate the desire to right wrongs of the past and behave better in the future.
In hospitals, to encourage doctors and nurses to wash their hands
merely mentioning patients instead of you led medical professionals to wash their hands 10 percent more often and use 45 percent more soap and gel. Thinking about oneself invokes the logic of consequence: Will I get sick? Doctors and nurses can answer swiftly with a no:
The last time you saw a child engage in good behavior, how did you respond? My guess is that you praised the action, not the child. “That was really nice. That was so sweet.” By complimenting the behavior you reinforce it, so the child will learn to repeat it.
we should embrace nouns more thoughtfully. “Don’t Drink and Drive” could be rephrased as: “Don’t Be a Drunk Driver.” The same thinking can be applied to originality. When a child draws a picture, instead of calling the artwork creative, we can say “You are creative.” After a teenager resists the temptation to follow the crowd, we can commend her for being a non-conformist.
The paradox of encouraging children to develop strong values is that parents effectively limit their own influence. Parents can nurture the impulse to be original, but at some point, people need to find their own role models for originality in their chosen fields.
If we want to encourage originality, the best step we can take is to raise our children’s aspirations by introducing them to different kinds of role models.
In some cases, fictional characters may
be even better role models.
7: Rethinking Groupthink (The Myths of Strong Cultures, Cults, and Devil’s Advocates)
“We give people products they do not even know they want,”
Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid.
Groupthink is the enemy of originality; people feel pressured to conform to the dominant, default views instead of championing diversity of thought.
there were three dominant templates: professional, star, and commitment.
emphasized hiring candidates with specific skills:
to future potential, placing a premium on choosing or poaching the brightest hires.
Skills and potential were fine, but cultural fit was a must. The top priority was to employ people who matched the company’s values and norms. The commitment blueprint involved a unique approach to motivation, too.
When they tracked the firms through the internet boom of the late 1990s and after the bubble burst in 2000, one blueprint was far superior to the others: commitment.
When founders had a commitment blueprint, the failure rate of their firms was zero—not a single one of them went out of business.
Failure rates were substantial for the star blueprint and more than three times worse for the professional blueprint.
We can see the benefits of a commitment blueprint in the early days of Polaroid’s culture, which revolved around the core values of intensity, originality, and quality.
Edwin Land
When you’re bonded that strongly with your colleagues and your organization, it’s hard to imagine working anywhere else.
although founders’ commitment blueprints gave startups a better chance of surviving and going public, once they did so, they suffered from slower growth rates in stock-market value.
Firms with commitment blueprints grew their stock values 140 percent slower than star blueprints and 25 percent slower than professional
the worse companies performed, the more CEOs sought advice from friends and colleagues
who shared their perspectives. They favored the comfort of consensus over the discomfort of dissent, which was precisely the opposite of what they should have done.
Dissenting opinions are useful even when they’re wrong.
In the investment world, you can only make money if you think different from everyone else. Bridgewater has prevented groupthink by inviting dissenting opinions from every employee in the company. When employees share independent viewpoints instead of conforming to the majority, there’s a much higher chance that Bridgewater will make investment decisions no one else has considered and recognize financial trends no one else has discerned. That makes it possible to be right when the rest of the market is wrong.
Jack Handey
before you criticize people, you should walk a mile in their shoes.
At Bridgewater, employees are expected to voice concerns and critiques directly to each other.
Ray Dalio doesn’t want employees to bring him solutions; he expects them to bring him problems.
Although everyone’s opinions are welcome, they’re not all valued equally. Bridgewater is not a democracy. Voting privileges the majority, when the minority might have a better opinion. “Democratic decision making—one person, one vote—is dumb,”
“because not everybody has the same believability.”*
Dalio wanted Bridgewater to work the same way, so he created baseball cards that display statistics on every employee’s performance, which can be accessed by anyone at the company.
“Shapers” are independent thinkers: curious, non-conforming,
and rebellious. They practice brutal, nonhierarchical honesty. And they act in the face of risk, because their fear of not succeeding exceeds their fear of failing.
8: Rocking the Boat and Keeping It Steady (Managing Anxiety, Apathy, Ambivalence, and Anger)
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. . . . The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Nelson Mandela
Strategic optimists anticipate the best, staying calm and setting high expectations. Defensive pessimists expect the worst, feeling anxious and imagining all the things that can go wrong.
they were doing so well because of their pessimism.”
They deliberately imagine a disaster scenario to intensify their anxiety and convert it into motivation.
Once they’ve considered the worst, they’re driven to avoid it, considering every relevant detail to make sure they don’t crash and burn, which enables them to feel a sense of control. Their anxiety reaches its zenith before the event, so that when it arrives, they’re ready to succeed.
when students were nervous before taking a tough math test, they scored 22 percent better if they were told “Try to get excited” instead of “Try to remain calm.”
“Proper revolutions are not cataclysmic explosions,” Popovic observes. “They are long, controlled burns.”
When Josh Silverman took the reins of Skype in February 2008,
“It’s not about making cheap phone calls. It’s about being together when you’re not in the same room.”
outsourced inspiration to a symbol: a black clenched fist.
Derek Sivers put it, “The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader.”
If you want people to go out on a limb, you need to show them that they’re not alone.
the first error they made was failing to establish a sense of urgency.
“Executives underestimate how hard it can be to drive people out of their comfort zones,” Kotter writes. “Without a sense of urgency, people . . . won’t make needed sacrifices. Instead they cling to the status quo and resist.”
If you want people to modify their behavior, is it better to highlight the benefits of changing or the costs of not changing?
If they think the behavior is safe, we should emphasize all the good things that will happen if they do it—they’ll want to act immediately to obtain those certain gains.
But when people
believe a behavior is risky, that approach doesn’t work. They’re already comfortable with the status quo, so the benefits of change aren’t attractive, and the stop system kicks in. Instead, we need to destabilize the status quo and accentuate the bad things that will happen if they don’t change.
Taking a risk is more appealing when they’re faced with a guaranteed loss if they don’t. The prospect of a certain loss brings the go system online.
If you want people to take risks, you need first to show what’s wrong with the present. To drive people out of their comfort zones, you have to cultivate dissatisfaction, frustration, or anger at the current state of affairs, making it a guaranteed loss.
“The greatest communicators of all time,”
“what is: here’s the status quo.” Then, they “compare that to what could be,” making “that gap as
big as
When our commitment is wavering, the best way to stay on track is to consider the progress we’ve already made. As we recognize what
we’ve invested and attained, it seems like a waste to give up, and our confidence and commitment surge.
Once commitment is fortified, instead of glancing in the rearview mirror, it’s better to look forward by highlighting the work left to be done.
According to Berkeley sociologist Arlie Hochschild, if you’re feeling an intense emotion like anxiety or anger, there are two ways to manage it: surface acting and deep acting.
Surface acting involves putting on a mask—modifying your speech, gestures,
and expressions to present yourself as unfazed.
In deep acting, known as method acting in the theater world, you actually become the character you wish to portray.
Deep acting dissolves the distinction between your true self and the role you are playing. You are no longer acting, because you are actually experiencing the genuine feelings of the character.
Research shows that surface acting burns us out: Faking emotions that we don’t really feel is both stressful and exhausting. If we want to express a set of emotions, we need to actually experience them.
“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world,” E. B. White once wrote. “This makes it difficult to plan the day.”
Actions for Impact
The best way to boost your originality is to produce more ideas.
Immerse yourself in a new domain. Originality increases when you broaden your frame of reference.
try a job rotation:
learn about a different culture,
You don’t need to go abroad to diversify your experience; you can immerse yourself in the culture and customs of a new environment simply by reading about it.
Seek more feedback from peers. It’s hard to judge your own ideas, because you tend to be too enthusiastic, and you can’t trust your gut if you’re not an expert in the domain.
Voicing and Championing Original Ideas
Balance your risk portfolio. When you’re going to take a risk in one domain, offset it by being unusually cautious in another realm of your life. Like
kept their day jobs while testing their ideas,
Highlight the reasons not to support your idea.
the three biggest weaknesses of your idea and then ask them to list several more reasons not to support
Make your ideas more familiar. Repeat yourself—it makes people more comfortable with an unconventional idea.
Reactions typically become more positive after ten to twenty exposures to an idea, particularly if they’re short, spaced apart by a few days, and mixed in with other ideas.
You can also make your original concept more appealing by connecting
it with other ideas that are already understood by the audience—like when the Lion King script was reframed as Hamlet with lions.
Speak to a different audience. Instead of seeking out friendly people who share your values, try approaching disagreeable people who share your methods.
Be a tempered radical. If your idea is extreme, couch it in a more conventional goal. That way, instead of changing people’s minds, you can appeal to values or beliefs that they already hold.
Motivate yourself differently when you’re committed vs. uncertain. When you’re determined to act, focus on the progress left to go—you’ll be energized to close the gap.
When your conviction falters, think of the progress you’ve already
Don’t try to calm down. If you’re nervous, it’s hard to relax. It’s easier to turn anxiety into intense positive emotions like interest and enthusiasm. Think about the reasons you’re eager to challenge the status quo, and the positive outcomes that might result.
14. Realize you’re not alone. Even having a single ally is enough to dramatically increase your will to act. Find one person who believes in your vision and begin tackling the problem together.
15. Remember that if you don’t take initiative, the status quo will persist. Consider the four responses to dissatisfaction: exit, voice, persistence, and neglect.
Picture yourself as the enemy.
“kill the company” exercise from Lisa Bodell, CEO of futurethink.
Invite employees from different functions and levels to pitch ideas. At DreamWorks Animation, even accountants and lawyers are encouraged and trained to present movie ideas.
Ban the words like, love, and hate. At the nonprofit DoSomething.org, CEO Nancy Lublin forbade employees from using the words like, love, and hate, because they make it too easy to give a visceral response without analyzing it.
Originality comes not from people who match the culture, but from those who enrich it.
Shift from exit interviews to entry interviews. Instead of waiting to ask for ideas until employees are on their way out the door, start seeking their insights when they first arrive. By sitting down with new hires during onboarding, you can help them feel valued and gather novel suggestions along the way.
Ask children what their role models would do. Children feel free to take initiative when they look at problems through the eyes of originals. Ask children what they would like to improve in
Link good behaviors to moral character. Many parents and teachers praise helpful actions, but children are more generous when they’re commended for being helpful people—it becomes part of their identity. If you see a child do something good, try saying, “You’re a good person because you ___.” Children are also more ethical when they’re asked to be moral people—they want to earn the identity.
If you want a child to share a toy, instead
of asking, “Will you share?” ask, “Will you be a sharer?”
Explain how bad behaviors have consequences for others. When children misbehave, help them see how their actions hurt other people. “How do you think this made her feel?” As they consider the negative impact on others, children begin to feel empathy and guilt, which strengthens their motivation to right the wrong—and to avoid the action in the future.
Emphasize values over rules. Rules set limits that teach children to adopt a fixed view of the world. Values encourage
The lesson here isn’t to ask customers what they want. As the famous line often attributed to Henry Ford goes: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” Instead, creators ought to build a car and see if customers will drive it. That means identifying a potential need, designing what The Lean Startup author Eric Ries calls a minimum viable product, testing different versions, and gathering feedback.
this doesn’t work if you’re pitching a bad idea.
The Sarick Effect only holds if you have a persuasive message to deliver.
middle children are the most inclined toward diplomacy.
“knowing others’ preferences degrades the quality of group decisions.”