Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World Book Summary

Post Last Updated: November 23, 2021

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, by Adam Grant, is all about creative thinking and being unique.

As easy as some people make it look, producing something truly original is time consuming and difficult.

No one gets something right on the first try, and being creative takes many many iterations before getting to the final product.

In Originals, Adam Grant covers how creative thinking happens, what we can do to become more creative and innovative, and also provides some strategies for dealing with emotions in different situations.

Adam Grant has been the top-rated professor at The Wharton School of Business in Pennsylvania for the last 5 years, and has been recognized for influential management thinking.

If you are looking to become more original, creative and unique in your work, Originals is a must read.

The rest of this post includes a summary of Originals, takeaways from Originals, and a reading recommendation for you.

How to find a new idea: think of something unrelated, then add something familiar. This produces something novel and useful.

Book Summary of Originals

In Originals, Grant starts out by discussing the concepts of originality and conformity.

To be original, Grant argues, is to be constantly challenging the status quo and the defaults of your domain.

While it is much easier to conform to norms, this is counterproductive to being original. By conforming, you will not be producing unique work.

For producing original work, Grant talks about many different ways we can force ourselves into creative thought. 6 of the ways to think more creatively include:

  • Question the default
    • Asking questions like “What is this wasn’t the correct way to think about the world?” and “Why is the world this way?” can lead to more original thought
  • Triple the ideas you create
    • The odds of producing a genius result by only trying a few times is slim to none. It took Thomas Edison 2,000 attempts to get the light bulb just right!
  • Welcome criticism and seek more feedback from peers
    • By getting other people’s perspective on a situation, you can improve your perspective on the situation.
  • Think about the opposite
    • Turn the situation around, what does it look like from the other angle? By thinking about the opposite, you open your mind to potential downfalls of your plan.
  • Think about what our enemies would do
    • If someone hates you, what would they do? By thinking about what our enemies would do, we awaken an urgency to stay competitive.
  • Immerse yourself in a new domain
    • Many domains have similarities to your domain. Similar to cross training in exercise, by looking at other domains, you can draw parallels to your current situation and adapt.

Throughout the book, there are many tips and tactics for unlocking your full creative thinking potential.

The more experiments you run, the less constrained you become by your ideas from the past.

Takeaways from Originals

With every book you read, it is a must to have takeaways and actionable items to implement in life.

There were so many takeaways from Originals (I finished the book with 4 pages of notes…), but two have stuck with me:

  • Questioning the default
  • Tripling the number of ideas you create and implement

Question the Default

What is something you follow and believe which others believe?

When I was growing up, I got sucked into the belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If I didn’t eat breakfast, I would basically die of starvation.

Once I got to college, I started experimenting with my breakfasts and eating habits. I found when I woke up, I was thirsty, and not hungry.

For me personally, intermittent fasting has lead to much greater benefits than eating sugary cereals in the morning.

Questioning the default has lead to better health and more focused mornings for me.

For you, who knows what defaults you believe and how you could benefit from questioning the default!

Triple the Number of Ideas You Create

Increasing the number of ideas you create is essential to producing something creative.

It took Thomas Edison 2,000 attempts to invent the light bulb. That first time he sat down at his desk, how do you think his light bulb performed?

It failed!

And that’s totally okay.

Have you ever heard the saying Fail Forward?

Not every attempt at something creative is going to end up going viral or become your finest work.  However, if you don’t try, you won’t get to that viral work.

Being original doesn’t require being first. It requires being different and better.

Our Recommendation for Originals

By changing the way you think and brainstorm, you are capable of coming up with some amazing, unique work.

Questioning the default, tripling the number of ideas you create, and welcoming criticism and feedback all can lead in new and innovative thoughts.

Looking at situations from the other side and diving into other domains can also inspire unique ideas.

Try the strategy which resonates with you! As listed above, Adam Grant presents to us 6 ways to come up with something new and bold.

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World is a must-read book about originality, challenging the default, and becoming creative in your life and work.

If you work as a creative, or are looking to become an entrepreneur, you need to read Originals.

How do you inspire original thought in your work and life?