What binds non-conformists?

Adam Grant’s Originals is worth a read.

It sets out to find what makes original people original by deconstructing high achievers from business, entertainment and science in an attempt to find out what binds their creative DNA. Its findings surprised me.

Like, it taught me -

  • That creatives should procrastinate. As Grant says, “Procrastination may be the enemy of productivity, but it can be a resource for creativity.” So if you want to generate ideas, you’re going to have to sit back and take your time doing it.

  • That high achieving entrepreneurs take the least risk. Or, rather, people who build great businesses are those that minimised every bit of risk they were taking along the way. Fools take risks. Good, talented, creative people are too smart to risk everything. In fact, surprising as it may sound, they usually risk next to nothing.

  • That the key to great work is brutal and honest feedback from people who are as far away from your family and friends as possible. Got an idea for a business? Don’t ask your best friend if it’ll fly. Finished the first draft of your novel? Don’t give it to your Mum to read. Progress takes time and, inevitably, thousands of business plans and drafts. So seek out critical feedback. It’s the only way we grow.

Perhaps the most obvious point of the book is that the only thing that binds non-conformists is their unwillingness to conform to the norms expected of them. Hence, the surprising, counter-intuitive findings.

However, the thing that made them original - the reason that they built Google or wrote Seinfeld or spoke in public as Martin Luther King did - is binding. And it’s comforting to know that, if we try, we can all conform a little to their way of thinking too.

Edward Playfair