Book Review 'Originals' by Adam Grant

Dutch School of Thought, May 23, no comments

How Non-Conformists Move the World

By Jeroen van IJzendoorn

Adam Grant (1981) is a compelling writer. He has a vast background in psychology, behavior and motivation, especially given his age. In this book Adam explores how originals, or non-conformists, challenge conformity and champion new ideas that go against the stream. In a way, I’d say, it’s a book on how to become a thought leader.

By reading the stories that are not only educational but also highly entertaining, it becomes very clear what makes an Original: recognize a good idea, speak up, build a coalition, choose the right time, manage fear and doubt. Examples from very different angles – politics to sports, historic to current – amplify the understanding of the necessary ingredients. How about the story of an entrepreneur who pitches his startups by highlighting the reasons not to invest? And what can we learn from a woman at Apple who challenged Steve Jobs from three levels below?

An Original is different from the rest, but can never succeed alone. Every Original needs a team and therefore Adam dedicates part of the book to show how to deal with team dynamics and to get the most original ideas out of yourself and your team. His main message? Be aware of peer-pressure. Originals face risk, skip hierarchy, are brutal honest and balance between a strong culture and cult.

Producing original ideas is a though job and certainly some of your ideas will fail. To be honest: the majority of your ideas will not be successful. So an Original needs to come up with far more original ideas then he or she will ever become known for, argues Adam. You can’t win all battles.

My take-away is that an Original is not made overnight. You need patience, humbleness and deliberation to become one. To challenge the status quo, you do not only need the ideas, but also the leadership/political skills. This is by far not the easiest way to happiness, but it is probably the most fulfilling. The book concludes with a neat list of action points to work on as an individual, leader or teacher.

This book is a good add-on if Made to stick by Heath brothers and Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell are already on your list.

Jeroen is co-owner of Factor Tachtig, a marketing-communication agency in Liempde (the Netherlands). He is also a knowledge member and active contributor to Dutch School of Thought.

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