Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World Review

Posted by Ashwin Madavan on March 25, 2016

The book mentions a fascinating social experiment in which Teresa Amabile created book reviews that had identical content but opposite tones and asked people to rate the intelligence of their authors. Amabile found that, “people rated the critical reviewer as 14% more intelligent, and having 16 percent greater literary expertise, than the complimentary reviewer.” Therefore, despite thoroughly enjoying this book, I’ll focus on its faults first in order to look smarter and more literate than I really am.

I found the most glaring weakness to be the lack of sufficient quantitative evidence. Adam Grant frequently cited the results of studies and social experiments when making arguments about the causes of human creativity; however, he left out details about the statistical significance and margin of error of these results. By omitting the more complete statistical picture, Grant forces his readers to take him at his word. It’s difficult to disagree with his interpretation of these scientific findings, because he only provides the data that supports his claims.

That being said, this was easily one of my favorite books. It was rereadable and highly actionable. I especially liked how Grant used a variety of real life examples to support his claims about originality. The following are ten of my favorite quotes from the book.

  1. “People who suffer the most from a given state of affairs are paradoxically the least likely to question, challenge, reject, or change it.” A reminder that when the going gets tough, fucking do something about it.
  2. “Practice makes perfect, but it doesn’t make new.” Doing the same thing over and over again is going to lead to the same results.
  3. “When it comes to idea generation, quantity is the most predictable path to quality.” Don’t bring any biases or prejudices to the idea generation process. Every idea may not be a good idea, but every idea is useful.
  4. “When we judge their greatness, we focus not on their averages, but on their peaks.” People are remembered by who they were at their best.
  5. “It’s true that the early bird gets the worm, but we can’t forget that the early worm gets caught.” Sometimes it’s the first mover disadvantage. Being first to market can be a disadvantage. It’s much more important to be the best than it is to be the first.
  6. “Timing accounted for forty-two percent of the difference between success and failure.” The best idea requires the best timing to be successful.
  7. “The secret to success is sincerity.” You have to be genuine. Mean everything you say. Do everything you believe.
  8. “Strong opinions, weakly held… Argue like you’re right and listen like you’re wrong.” It’s good to be steadfast in your principles, but its bad for your principles to be steadfast. You should always be open to new thoughts, ideas, and perspectives.
  9. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Preach.
  10. “Becoming original is not the easiest path in the pursuit of happiness, but it leaves us perfectly poised for the happiness of pursuit.” It’s about the journey, not the destination.

Cover photograph from mycreativejourney2015.