Jeremy Abroad

Adam Grant - Originals (summary)

April 04, 2016

Recently listened to an interesting interview of Adam Grant (via James Altucher’s podcast) where he talked about his research in his book “Originals”. Adam Grant is the youngest tenured and most highly rated professor at the Wharton School.

Key takeaways:

  • Seeking criticism, questioning assumptions, and willingness to change beliefs when presented with countering evidence is vital (political correctness and hivemind thinking run completely counter to this)
  • Procrastination leads to more creative/original ideas (up to a point).

    • A study was done where participants were given an assignment and one group was forced to play Minesweeper for 5 minutes immediately after being assigned the task. That group was most creative. The group forced to play Minesweeper for 5 minutes before given the assignment did not perform any better.
    • This can be attributed to your brain unconsciously processing information in the background of your mind. It’s just like how information is often retained better when you learn it right before sleeping.
  • People who keep their day jobs while trying to start a business are 33% less likely to fail
  • First mover advantage isn’t reflected in statistics. 47% of first-movers fail, compared to 8% of late entrants.
  • A wide breadth of knowledge is more conducive to coming up with original ideas than depth. Innovation often comes from applying something from one field to a totally different field.
  • Depth of knowledge gives one good intuition within one’s own field, but does not apply well outside that field (eg. Steve Jobs championing the segway)
  • Don’t be afraid of failure. Volume of ideas/attempts is critical. You can fail by trying and failing or not trying at all. Given that most regrets are from inaction, it makes more sense to be the former.

As a society, we’re most definitely not optimizing for creative and original thinking. We place so much value on conformity and robot-like depth of knowledge that we shun those who may be most likely to offer the most innovative ideas and solutions.

For example, schools and companies tend to reward the most risk-averse and conformist indoctrinated individuals while punishing the rest. This leads to a very one-dimensional labor force, unable to think outside the confines of their own boundaries.

This is largely due to the increased competition and cutthroat nature of education/labor markets.


Jeremy Bernier

Written by Jeremy Bernier who left the NYC rat race to travel the world, work remotely, and find the meaning of life.