Amazingly lazy

Adam Grant, Best-selling author 'Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World's'

How do people like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg come up with their revolutionary ideas? American organizational psychologist and best-selling author Adam Grant delves into the nature of these ‘originals’ and shares some tips on how to become a creative visionary.

The path to the greatest success is not always a straight one. Adam Grant is a living example of this. At 36, the American has already had several careers. Formerly a professional magician and an Olympic springboard diver, he is now in high demand as a lecturer in organizational psychology, best-selling author and conference speaker. He usually begins his presentations with a story about how two students tried to convince him to invest in their start-up, an online eyewear store. Grant refused. The students seemed to lack commitment and he believed it would never work. The company – Warby Parker – now has an estimated value of more than a billion dollars and is one of the most innovative companies in the world. Annoyed at having passed up the opportunity, Grant started looking into what makes minds innovative and how to better stimulate and recognize good ideas. Grant says that innovators are always non-conformists. They question the status quo and the majority view. And they pursue their vision despite all the odds. “A lot of people allow themselves to be held back by skeptics and fears, but originals hold their ground. It’s worse for them not to have tried than to fail,” says Grant. This doesn’t mean that originals take more risks than other people. They are just good at managing risks. Companies should therefore give employees free rein to try out new ideas and also allow them to fail.

Good ideas need time

Innovation also needs plenty of incubation time. In one of his studies, Grant demonstrates how procrastination, putting off tasks, and not doing much of anything can actually help in the development of successful ideas. He claims the best way is to quickly process a problem and then let it be for a while. “The first ideas are rarely the best, and the longer the brain has to mull something over, the more ideas it comes up with,” says Grant. He also believes that it is not enough to come up with 20 ideas after an hour of brainstorming, as the limits of originality are only reached after around 200 ideas. And group thinking is not very innovative. When too many of the same type of people work on the same thing for too long, the ideas tend to lack diversity. Companies should therefore hire different kinds of people and get them to look for ideas together.

Picture Credits: © Matt Albiani