Originals: How Non-conformists Change the World

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9780753556986: Originals: How Non-conformists Change the World
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#1 New York Times Bestseller! `Extraordinary' JJ Abrams `Fascinating' Arianna Huffington `Inspire creativity and change' Richard Branson `One of my favourite thinkers' Malcolm Gladwell `Masterful' Peter Thiel `One of the great social scientists of our time' Susan Cain, bestselling author of Quiet `Fresh research, counter-intuitive insights, lively writing, practical calls to action' The Financial Times The New York Times bestselling author examines how people can drive creative, moral, and organisational progress-and how leaders can encourage originality in their organisations. How can we originate new ideas, policies and practices without risking it all? Adam Grant shows how to improve the world by championing novel ideas and values that go against the grain, battling conformity, and bucking outdated traditions. Using surprising studies and stories spanning business, politics, sports, and entertainment, Grant explores how to recognize a good idea, speak up without getting silenced, build a coalition of allies, choose the right time to act, and manage fear and doubt. Parents will learn how to nurture originality in children, and leaders will discover how to fight groupthink to build cultures that welcome dissent. Told through dazzling case studies of people going against the grain, you'll encounter an entrepreneur who pitches the reasons not to invest, a woman at Apple who challenged Steve Jobs from three levels below, an analyst who challenged secrecy at the CIA, a billionaire financial wizard who fires employees who don't criticize him, and the TV executive who saved Seinfeld from the cutting room floor. Originals will give you groundbreaking insights about rejecting conformity and how to change the world.

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About the Author:

Adam Grant is the youngest tenured professor and single highest-rated teacher at The Wharton School. His consulting and speaking clients include Google, the NFL, Johnson & Johnson, Pixar, Goldman Sachs, the World Economic Forum, the United Nations, and the U.S. Army and Navy. He has been honoured as one of Malcolm Gladwell's favourite social science writers, one of BusinessWeek's favourite professors and one of the world's top 40 business professors under 40.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Foreword

Adam Grant is the perfect person to write Originals because he is one.

He is a brilliant researcher who passionately pursues the science of what motivates people, busting myths and revealing truths. He is an informed optimist who offers insights and advice about how anyone—at home, at work, in the community—can make the world a better place. He is a dedicated friend who inspires me to believe in myself and has helped me understand how I can advocate effectively for my ideas.

Adam is one of the most important influences in my life. Through the pages of this magnificent book, he will enlighten, inspire, and support you as well.

MYTH BUSTER

Conventional wisdom holds that some people are innately creative, while most have few original thoughts. Some people are born to be leaders, and the rest are followers. Some people can have real impact, but the majority can’t.

In Originals Adam shatters all of these assumptions.

He demonstrates that any of us can enhance our creativity. He reveals how we can identify ideas that are truly original and predict which ones will work. He tells us when to trust our gut and when to rely on others. He shows how we can become better parents by nurturing originality in our children and better managers by fostering diversity of thought instead of conformity.

In these pages, I learned that great creators don’t necessarily have the deepest expertise but rather seek out the broadest perspectives. I saw how 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. Anyone who has ever worked with me knows how much I hate leaving things to the last minute, how I always think that anything that can be done should be done right away. Mark Zuckerberg, along with many others, will be pleased if I can let go of the relentless pressure I feel to finish everything early—and, as Adam points out, it might just help me and my teams achieve better results.

INFORMED OPTIMIST

Every day, we all encounter things we love and things that need to change. The former give us joy. The latter fuel our desire to make the world different—ideally better than the way we found it. But trying to change deep-seated beliefs and behaviors is daunting. We accept the status quo because effecting real change seems impossible. Still, we dare to ask: Can one individual make a difference? And, in our bravest moments: Could that one individual be me?

Adam’s answer is a resounding yes. This book proves that any one of us can champion ideas that improve the world around us.

FRIEND

I met Adam just as his first book, Give and Take, was generating buzz in Silicon Valley. I read it and immediately started quoting it to anyone who would listen. Adam was not only a talented researcher but also a gifted teacher and storyteller who was able to explain complicated ideas simply and clearly.

Then my husband invited Adam to speak to his team at work and brought him over for dinner. Adam was every bit as extraordinary in person as he was on paper. His knowledge was encyclopedic and his energy was contagious. He and I started talking about how his research could inform the debate on gender and began working together. We have done so ever since, conducting research and writing a series of op-eds about women and work. LeanIn.Org has benefited immensely from his rigorous analysis and commitment to equality.

Once a year, Facebook brings its global teams together, and in 2015 I invited Adam to give a keynote speech. Everyone was blown away by his wisdom and humor. Months later, the teams are still talking about his insights and putting his advice into action.

Along the way, Adam and I became friends. When tragedy hit and I lost my husband suddenly, Adam stepped up and stepped in as only a true friend would. He approached the worst time of my life as he approaches everything, combining his unique understanding of psychology with his unparalleled generosity. When I thought I would never feel better, he flew across the country to explain what I could do to build my resilience. When I could not figure out how to handle a particularly gut-wrenching situation, he helped me find answers where I thought there were none. When I needed a shoulder to cry on, his was always there.

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. The magic of this book is that Adam becomes that kind of friend to everyone who reads it. He offers a wealth of advice for overcoming doubt and fear, speaking up and pitching ideas, and finding allies in the least likely of places. He gives practical guidance on how to manage anxiety, channel anger, find the strength in our weaknesses, overcome obstacles, and give hope to others.

Originals is one of the most important and captivating books I have ever read, full of surprising and powerful ideas. It will not only change the way you see the world; it might just change the way you live your life. And it could very well inspire you to change your world.

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

On a cool fall evening in 2008, four students set out to revolutionize an industry. Buried in loans, they had lost and broken eyeglasses and were outraged at how much it cost to replace them. One of them had been wearing the same damaged pair for five years: He was using a paper clip to bind the frames together. Even after his prescription changed twice, he refused to pay for pricey new lenses.

Luxottica, the 800-pound gorilla of the industry, controlled more than 80 percent of the eyewear market. To make glasses more affordable, the students would need to topple a giant. Having recently watched Zappos transform footwear by selling shoes online, they wondered if they could do the same with eyewear.

When they casually mentioned their idea to friends, time and again they were blasted with scorching criticism. No one would ever buy glasses over the internet, their friends insisted. People had to try them on first. Sure, Zappos had pulled the concept off with shoes, but there was a reason it hadn’t happened with eyewear. “If this were a good idea,” they heard repeatedly, “someone would have done it already.”

None of the students had a background in e-commerce and technology, let alone in retail, fashion, or apparel. Despite being told their idea was crazy, they walked away from lucrative job offers to start a company. They would sell eyeglasses that normally cost $500 in a store for $95 online, donating a pair to someone in the developing world with every purchase.

The business depended on a functioning website. Without one, it would be impossible for customers to view or buy their products. After scrambling to pull a website together, they finally managed to get it online at 4 A.M. on the day before the launch in February 2010. They called the company Warby Parker, combining the names of two characters created by the novelist Jack Kerouac, who inspired them to break free from the shackles of social pressure and embark on their adventure. They admired his rebellious spirit, infusing it into their culture. And it paid off.

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. Warby Parker didn’t just make the list—they came in first. The three previous winners were creative giants Google, Nike, and Apple, all with over fifty thousand employees. Warby Parker’s scrappy startup, a new kid on the block, had a staff of just five hundred. In the span of five years, the four friends built one of the most fashionable brands on the planet and donated over a million pairs of glasses to people in need. The company cleared $100 million in annual revenues and was valued at over $1 billion.

Back in 2009, one of the founders pitched the company to me, offering me the chance to invest in Warby Parker. I declined.

It was the worst financial decision I’ve ever made, and I needed to understand where I went wrong.

orig·i·nal, adj The origin or source of something; from which something springs, proceeds, or is derived.

orig·i·nal, n A thing of singular or unique character; a person who is different from other people in an appealing or interesting way; a person of fresh initiative or inventive capacity.

Years ago, psychologists discovered that there are two routes to achievement: conformity and originality. Conformity means following the crowd down conventional paths and maintaining the status quo. Originality is taking the road less traveled, championing a set of novel ideas that go against the grain but ultimately make things better.

Of course, nothing is completely original, in the sense that all of our ideas are influenced by what we learn from the world around us. We are constantly borrowing thoughts, whether intentionally or inadvertently. We’re all vulnerable to “kleptomnesia”—accidentally remembering the ideas of others as our own. 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. The Warby Parker founders had the originality to dream up an unconventional way to sell glasses online, but became originals by taking action to make them easily accessible and affordable.

This book is about how we can all become more original. There’s a surprising clue in the web browser that you use to surf the internet.

Finding the Faults in Defaults

Not long ago, economist Michael Housman was leading a project to figure out why some customer service agents stayed in their jobs longer than others. Armed with data from over thirty thousand employees who handled calls for banks, airlines, and cell-phone companies, he suspected that their employment histories would contain telltale signs about their commitment. He thought that people with a history of job-hopping would quit sooner, but they didn’t: Employees who had held five jobs in the past five years weren’t any more likely to leave their positions than those who had stayed in the same job for five years.

Hunting for other hints, he noticed that his team had captured information about which internet browser employees had used when they logged in to apply for their jobs. On a whim, he tested whether that choice might be related to quitting. He didn’t expect to find any correlation, assuming that browser preference was purely a matter of taste. But when he looked at the results, he was stunned: Employees who used Firefox or Chrome to browse the Web remained in their jobs 15 percent longer than those who used Internet Explorer or Safari.

Thinking it was a coincidence, Housman ran the same analysis for absences from work. The pattern was the same: Firefox and Chrome users were 19 percent less likely to miss work than Internet Explorer and Safari fans.

Then he looked at performance. His team had assembled nearly three million data points on sales, customer satisfaction, and average call length. The Firefox and Chrome users had significantly higher sales, and their call times were shorter. Their customers were happier, too: After 90 days on the job, the Firefox and Chrome users had customer satisfaction levels that Internet Explorer and Safari users reached only after 120 days at work.

It’s not the browser itself that’s causing them to stick around, show up dependably, and succeed. Rather, it’s what their browser preference signals about their habits. Why are the Firefox and Chrome users more committed and better performers on every metric?

The obvious answer was that they’re more tech savvy, so I asked Housman if he could explore that. The employees had all taken a computer proficiency test, which assessed their knowledge of keyboard shortcuts, software programs, and hardware, as well as a timed test of their typing speed. But the Firefox and Chrome group didn’t prove to have significantly more computer expertise, and they weren’t faster or more accurate typists. Even after accounting for those scores, the browser effect persisted. Technical knowledge and skill weren’t the source of their advantage.

What made the difference was how they obtained the browser. If you own a PC, Internet Explorer is built into Windows. If you’re a Mac user, your computer came preinstalled with Safari. Almost two thirds of the customer service agents used the default browser, never questioning whether a better one was available.

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 customer service agents who accepted the defaults of Internet Explorer and Safari approached their job the same way. They stayed on script in sales calls and followed standard operating procedures for handling customer complaints. They saw their job descriptions as fixed, so when they were unhappy with their work, they started missing days, and eventually just quit.

The employees who took the initiative to change their browsers to Firefox or Chrome approached their jobs differently. They looked for novel ways of selling to customers and addressing their concerns. When they encountered a situation they didn’t like, they fixed it. Having taken the initiative to improve their circumstances, they had little reason to leave. They created the jobs they wanted. But they were the exception, not the rule.

We live in an Internet Explorer world. Just as almost two thirds of the customer service reps used the default browser on their computers, many of us accept the defaults in our own lives. In a series of provocative studies, a team led by political psychologist John Jost explored how people responded to undesirable default conditions. Compared to European Americans, African Americans were less satisfied with their economic circumstances but perceived economic inequality as more legitimate and just. Compared to people in the highest income bracket, people in the lowest income bracket were 17 percent more likely to view economic inequality as necessary. And when asked whether they would support laws that limit...

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9780525429562: Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World

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