Are You An Original?

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World
Recently I read a compelling new book: Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World (Viking, 2016) by New York Times bestselling author Dr. Adam Grant of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

In it Grant says: “The Declaration of Independence promises Americans the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In the quest for happiness, many of us choose to enjoy the world as it is. Originals embrace the uphill battle, striving to make the world what it could be. By struggling to improve life and liberty, they may temporarily give up some pleasure, putting their own happiness on the back burner. In the long run, though, they have the chance to create a better world …”

Originals offers inspiring examples of people who innovated to create a better world from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Jackie Robinson, Steve Jobs and many more. It challenges our thinking on what it means to be original and offers suggestions on how we as leaders can better generate and champion original ideas. The key message of the book is that we can all think originally and inspire positive change in our organizations. With research, data and memorable examples Grant offers creative new ways to consider the process of innovation and idea generation. He also offers ways to recognize and overcome anxieties that hinder original thinking and risk taking. Learn what causes groupthink and how to avoid it. Learn how age does not have to impact originality. Why being a pioneer with an idea does not always net the best long-term results. Learn the power of timing. Why procrastination is not always bad. Learn how siblings, parents, and mentors nurture originality. All this and much more.

The evidence suggests that social bonds don’t drive groupthink; the culprits are overconfidence and reputational concerns.
To sustain our originality as we age and accumulate expertise, our best bet is to adopt an experimental approach.

It is my view that as Christians we should be the most “original” group of people as we steward our influence and originality as co-creators made in the image of God. In a very real sense, God created us to be creative. Christian nonprofit leaders tend to be originals who “embrace the uphill battle, striving to make the world what it could be.” We serve a creative God who has equipped us with the ability to innovate, take risks for the Kingdom, and boldly pursue God’s calling for our lives and our organizations. As Christian leaders we may not be “originals who move the world forward” but more so originals who partner with God in advancing His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. The Christian leaders and ministries changing the world in our time embrace original thinking: whether it’s innovative ways to help people find and follow God worldwide; new approaches to church formation like online campuses and micro campuses/house campuses; new approaches for rescuing those who have been enslaved or trafficked; creative ways to spur micro-enterprise in the poorest reaches of our world or new paradigms on how to equip the next generation of Christian leaders.

Actions for Impact (To learn more about these actions pick up a copy of the book)

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World

Actions for Impact If you’re seeking to unleash originality, here are some practical actions that you can take. The first steps are for individuals to generate, recognize, voice , and champion new ideas. The next set is for leaders to stimulate novel ideas and build cultures that welcome dissent.
Individual Actions:
A. Generating and Recognizing Original Ideas
  1. Question the default.
  2. Triple the number of ideas you generate.
  3. Immerse yourself in a new domain.
  4. Procrastinate strategically. When you’re generating new ideas, deliberately stop when your progress is incomplete.
  5. Seek more feedback from peers.
B. Voicing and Championing Original Ideas
  1. Balance your risk portfolio.
  2. Highlight the reasons not to support your idea. Start by describing the three biggest weaknesses of your idea and then ask them to list several more reasons not to support it.
  3. Make your ideas more familiar.
  4. Speak to a different audience.
  5. Be a tempered radical.
C. Managing Emotions
11. Motivate yourself differently when you’re committed vs. uncertain.
12. Don’t try to calm down. If you’re nervous, it’s hard to relax. It’s easier to turn anxiety into intense positive emotions like interest and enthusiasm. Think about the reasons you’re eager to challenge the status quo, and the positive outcomes that might result.
13. Focus on the victim, not the perpetrator.
14. Realize you’re not alone. Even having a single ally is
15. Remember that if you don’t take initiative, the status quo will persist.
Leader Actions:
A. Sparking Original Ideas
1. Run an innovation tournament.
2. Picture yourself as the enemy. People often fail to generate new ideas due to a lack of urgency . You can create urgency by implementing the “kill the company” exercise from Lisa Bodell, CEO of futurethink.
3. Invite employees from different functions and levels to pitch ideas. At DreamWorks Animation,
4. Hold an opposite day. Since it’s often hard to find the time for people to consider original viewpoints, one of my favorite practices is to have “opposite day” in the classroom and at conferences.
5. Ban the words like, love, and hate. At the nonprofit DoSomething.org, CEO Nancy Lublin forbade employees from using the words like, love, and hate, because they make it too easy to give a visceral response without analyzing it.
B. Building Cultures of Originality
6. Hire not on cultural fit, but on cultural contribution.
7. Shift from exit interviews to entry interviews. Instead of waiting to ask for ideas until employees are on their way out the door, start seeking their insights when they first arrive.
8. Ask for problems, not solutions.
9. Stop assigning devil’s advocates and start unearthing them.
10. Welcome criticism.
Parent and Teacher Actions:
1. Ask children what their role models would do.
2. Link good behaviors to moral character.
3. Explain how bad behaviors have consequences for others.
4. Emphasize values over rules.
5. Create novel niches for children to pursue.