Conformity – going with the established ways of doing things — is a reasonable strategy when it comes to navigating your career. It’s the path of least resistance. But according to author Adam Grant, if you want to change the world, you must pursue the path of originality. In Originals, Grant combines academic research about innovation and influence with concrete business cases to bust some of the most pervasive myths about creativity. Here are four of my favorite lessons from the book:
Question the default. Not accepting the status quo lies at the heart of originality. Grant reminds us that all existing rules, systems, and approaches were created by people just like us.
“Pro” Tip: Get in the habit of asking why something exists in the first place and how it can be improved.
Protect your downside. The belief that successful entrepreneurs are huge risk-takers is a myth. According to one five-year study entrepreneurs who kept their day jobs were 30% more likely to succeed. Bill Gates did not abruptly dropout of Harvard to start Microsoft. He stayed in school for an entire year after selling a new software program, saved his money, and then requested a one-year leave of absence (rather than quitting school altogether), just in case his business venture didn’t succeed.
“Pro” Tip: Put in place a solid back-up plan and cushion. It helps you feel secure enough to pursue a creative venture.
Get domain experience and then broaden your views. It’s easy to become entrenched in the assumptions of our industries and professions. Counteract this by finding ways to see your domain of expertise with a fresh lens.
“Pro” Tip: Spend time in new cultures and pursue artistic activities. These are two ways to hone your capacity to see a familiar landscape in fresh ways.
Become an idea machine. It’s widely assumed that there is a trade-off between quantity and quality. But Grant presents evidence that quantity is, in fact, the most predictable path toward quality, for example: Mozart composed over 600 pieces before he was 35. And Einstein wrote 240 publications that had a minimum impact before publishing his treatise on relativity.
“Pro” Tip: Carve out time each day to journal about new ideas and projects.