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Summary: Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

“Ultimately, the people who choose to champion originality are the ones who propel us forward. After spending years studying them and interacting with them, I am struck that their inner experiences are not any different from our own. They feel the same fear, the same doubt, as the rest of us. What sets them apart is that they take action anyway. They know in their hearts that failing would yield less regret than failing to try.” – Adam Grant

5 Ways to Increase ‘Originality’

Question the default

“The hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists. I’ve spent more than a decade studying this, and it turns out to be far less difficult than I expected. The starting point is curiosity: pondering why the default exists in the first place.” – Adam Grant

A study containing 30,000 customer service agents showed that those who rejected the default browser (Internet Explorer & Safari) and installed Chrome or Firefox were found to be better at solving customer issues. Those who questioned default options came up with more creative solutions to customer issues and increased their job satisfaction. You can boost your creativity/originality by questioning default options and experimenting with other alternatives.

Book Summary: Originals - How Non-Conformists Move the World

“When you remember that rules and systems were created by people, it becomes clear that they’re not set in stone—and you begin to consider how they can be improved.” – Adam Grant

Protect your downside

Two of the most original entrepreneurs of our time – Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and the automotive pioneer Henry Ford – were NOT huge risk takers. Bill Gates made sure he could go back to Harvard if his software company didn’t take off. Ford worked for Thomas Edison two years after building the carburetor that revolutionized the auto industry. Endeavor co-founder and CEO Linda Rottenberg has trained many entrepreneurs over the span of several decades and she says “the best entrepreneurs take the risk out of risk-taking.”

“Having a sense of security in one realm gives us the freedom to be original in another. By covering our bases financially, we escape the pressure to publish half-baked books, sell shoddy art, or launch untested businesses.” – Adam Grant

Protect your downside before diving into a creative pursuit (i.e. don’t quit your day job if you want to start a business). Working without a sense of security limits your originality.

Broaden you interests

Based on a Michigan State University study, scientists with a broad range of interests are more likely to make original discoveries and win the Nobel Prize:

  • Musical Interest (playing an instrument, composing, conducting) = 2x greater chance of winning Nobel
  • Art Interest (drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpting) = 7x greater chance of winning Nobel
  • Writing Interest (poetry, plays, essays) = 12x greater chance of winning Nobel
  • Performing Arts Interest (amateur actor, dancer, magician) = 22x greater chance of winning Nobel

Generate more bad ideas

You need to generate more ideas (and produce more shitty work) to generate original ideas:

  • Shakespeare produced 37 plays & 154 sonnets over his lifetime
  • Mozart composed 600 pieces before he was 35
  • Einstein published 248 papers

Highly creative people throughout history simply produce more work. “When it comes to idea generation, quantity is the most predictable path to quality. ‘Original thinkers,’ Stanford professor Robert Sutton notes, ‘(Originals) will come up with many ideas that are strange mutations, dead ends, and utter failures. The cost is worthwhile because they also generate a larger pool of ideas—especially novel ideas.’” – Adam Grant

Procrastinate on purpose

Adam and his team conducted a study to determine which participants could come up with a creative solution to a complex problem: those who started and finished a task in a single sitting or those who started a task then procrastinated and completed it later.

The reason our creativity increases when we procrastinate on purpose is due to the ‘Ziegarnik Effect’: “Once a task is finished, we stop thinking about it. But when it is interrupted and left undone, it stays active in our minds.” – Adam Grant


“Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” by Adam Grant is an insightful and thought-provoking exploration of the nature of creativity, innovation, and the power of non-conformity. Grant, a renowned organizational psychologist, presents a compelling argument that challenges conventional wisdom and provides valuable insights into what it takes to become an original thinker and make a meaningful impact in the world.

The book is divided into three parts, each focusing on a different aspect of originality. In the first part, Grant delves into the concept of recognizing and challenging the status quo. He explores various factors that hinder originality, such as fear of failure, conformity, and the belief that only a select few are capable of creating groundbreaking ideas. Through engaging anecdotes and compelling research, Grant dispels these myths and demonstrates that anyone can cultivate originality by embracing their unique perspectives and ideas.

In the second part, Grant explores the process of generating and refining creative ideas. He emphasizes the importance of embracing doubt and curiosity, as well as the value of procrastination and incubation in the creative process. By presenting a range of real-life examples and case studies, Grant highlights the strategies employed by successful non-conformists to nurture their ideas and bring them to fruition.

The final part of the book focuses on the realm of championing original ideas and overcoming obstacles. Grant examines the challenges faced by innovators and provides actionable advice on how to navigate these hurdles. He explores the role of social dynamics, groupthink, and the importance of finding the right support networks to amplify original ideas and effect change.

One of the strengths of “Originals” is Grant’s ability to support his arguments with a wealth of research and evidence. He draws on a wide range of fields, including psychology, sociology, and business, to provide a comprehensive understanding of the factors that influence originality. The book is also highly accessible, written in a clear and engaging style that makes complex concepts and theories easily digestible for readers of all backgrounds.

Another standout aspect of the book is the inclusion of numerous real-life examples and stories that bring the concepts to life. Grant draws from historical figures, successful entrepreneurs, and everyday individuals who have defied the odds and made a lasting impact through their originality. These narratives not only make the book more relatable but also provide valuable lessons and inspiration for readers looking to embrace their own non-conformist tendencies.

While “Originals” offers a wealth of valuable insights, it is not without its limitations. At times, the book may feel overly optimistic about the potential for everyone to become an original thinker, overlooking certain structural barriers that exist in society. Additionally, some readers may find that the book could have delved deeper into certain topics, leaving them wanting more in terms of practical strategies and implementation.

In conclusion, “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” is a compelling and thought-provoking read that challenges conventional thinking and provides valuable insights into the process of innovation and originality. Adam Grant’s extensive research, engaging storytelling, and practical advice make this book a must-read for anyone seeking to break free from the confines of conformity and make a meaningful impact in their personal and professional lives. While it may not have all the answers, “Originals” is an excellent resource for understanding the dynamics of original thinking and inspiring readers to embrace their unique perspectives and ideas.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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