Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World

  • by Adam Grant

    Fred Hayes Review by Nacogdoches ISD Superintendent Fred Hayes
    Are you an Internet Explorer or Chrome person? Do you prefer Firefox or Safari? Adam Grant, in his book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, states that your choice of internet browser may be an indicator of your resourcefulness and initiative. By his definition, originality involves introducing and advancing ideas that are relatively unusual. Grant discusses how using Firefox or Chrome is a deliberate choice that takes effort, as opposed to settling on the default browsers of Internet Explorer and Safari.

    He spends the majority of his book debunking myths of social behavior we all have come to take for granted as truths, such as youth having an advantage in changing the world or that procrastination is a surefire way to set oneself up for failure. Grant shares research that refutes the idea that firstborns have an innate advantage over younger siblings, stating that, in reality, younger siblings are more prone to be risk-takers and, thus, more willing to take initiative.

    As leaders in our profession, we would like to think of ourselves as “originals.” We attempt to be change agents, rejecting the default and exploring whether or not a better option exists. As I read this book, I found myself trying to identify with the characteristics Grant explains will help individuals stimulate and champion new ideas and take a moral stand against status quo when necessary. However, I was surprised at some of the actions he recommended to be a successful “original.”

    He describes the benefits of allowing open, critical feedback of a leader’s actions, behavior, and decisions. Grant goes on to say that we should not only allow criticism but welcome it. As leaders we are quick to verbalize a practice of asking our employees to bring us solutions, not problems. However, Grant espouses asking our team members to bring problems, because each person may have different information. Solutions can be generated better from acquiring varying viewpoints.

    These radical ideas kept me eager to pick up the book and read every chance I found, trying to see just how many of these suggestions I could — or would — attempt to put into practice. Grant has an online assessment you can take before you read the book to see how much you know about becoming an “original.”

    In our quest to make the world a better place, we can take away some practical actions from this book. We can learn from some of the world’s best success stories how to better navigate the process of positive change. We have a daily decision to make: to try and make the world a better place or to just accept the way things are and go along. Adam Grant’s “Originals” gives us a blueprint for leaving the environment of our organization better by recognizing good ideas, managing fear and doubt, welcoming dissent, speaking up and nurturing originality in others.