Ten Ideas on Originals, Non-Conformists & Entrepreneurs (Part II)


Ten Ideas on Originals, Non-Conformists & Entrepreneurs (Part I)

Sixth, Grant distinguishes different types of innovation. He explains that there are two radically different styles of innovation. There are “conceptual innovators” who formulate a big idea and set out to execute it (sprinters) and there are “experimental innovators” who solve problems through trial and error (marathoners) [109-110]

 Is one better than the other? Grant points out that, “To sustain our originality as we age and accumulate expertise, our best bet is to adopt an experimental approach.” [112] One take-away is that, “Sprinting is a fine strategy for a young genius, but becoming an old master requires the patience of experimentation to run a marathon.” [113]

 Seventh, Grant make a very good point regarding enemies and “frenemies.” He claims that enemies make better allies than frenemies [128] Why? Frenemies involve “ambivalent relationships”–people who sometimes support you and sometimes undermine you [129]. By contrast, negative relationships are unpleasant, but predictable; but when you are dealing with an ambivalent relationship you are constantly on guard [131]

 There are practical consequences in terms of our relationships. “Our instinct is to sever our bad relationships and salvage the ambivalent ones. But the evidence suggests we ought to do the opposite: cut our frenemies and attempt to convert our enemies.” [131]

 Eighth, how does originality occur in groups and how is it stifled? Grant points out that, “Groupthink is the enemy of originality.” [176] He explains that, ““groupthink occurs when people “are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group,” and their “strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.” [177] So, for a group to be creative there needs to be room for divergent and original thinking.

 Ninth, how does creativity flourish? Grant notes that, [“T]here is a common belief that creativity flourishes when criticism is withheld, but this turns out to be false.” [184] He gives the interesting example of harkening back to the origin of the concept of the “devil’s advocate.”

 Grant explains that this concept dates back to 1587 when Pope Sixtus V instituted a new process for vetting candidates for sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church [191] The devil’s advocate took the contrary position to those proposing the sainthood of an individual. This rigorous process resulted in spirited debate and produced a better outcome.

 Likewise, when pursuing creative solutions, there is value in having motivated contrary opinions. This pushes people to justify their own positions more thoroughly. Grant explains that, “a culture that focuses too heavily on solutions becomes a culture of advocacy, dampening inquiry.” [197]

 Tenth, how does a company motivate originality? What is the impetus? Grant explains that when trying to make changes there needs to be a sense of urgency] [232]. He explains that, “When they [leaders] considered how their competitors could put them out of business, they realized that it was a risk not to innovate. The urgency of innovation was apparent.” [234] That’s a good motivation.

 Grant explains that, “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.” [234] Further, “Anger counteracts apathy. We feel that we’ve been wronged, and we’re compelled to fight.” [236]

 To conclude, Grant’s book offers a number of great insights on being an original, the nature of non-conformity and entrepreneurship. I have only highlighted 10 of his key points from his book. Grant provides an apt concluding point on the value of the pursuit of originality. He notes that, “Originality brings more bumps in the road, yet it leaves us with more happiness and a greater sense of meaning.” [219]