Every once in a while you run across a book that may defy popular perceptions, but absolutely resonates as true deep in your gut. (you know, those books that have you saying yesssss, and breaking out your highlighter.) Only a small handful of books have had that kind of impact on me, and Adam Grant’s new book is one of them. Originals, How Non-Conformists Move the World debunks some of the myths, with a host of examples and data, regarding how innovation really works. (If you don’t want to take the time to read an entire book based solely on my recommendation, at least take 15 minutes to watch his Ted Talk . . . then you’ll want to read the book!)
I think one of the myths that prevent people from innovating is the idea of risk. Especially in these financially challenging times (so the thinking goes), fiscally responsible organizations need to minimize their risk. The parable of the talents comes to mind when I hear such comments, but that’s another blog . . . Grant counters such thinking with the idea of the balanced risk portfolio. The most effective innovators are not the “burn the ships” zealots who place all their bets on a single idea. The individuals Grant highlights balance risk in one area with more conservative strategies in other areas. They have Plan Bs in place while they pursue their big ideas, much like you have a balanced stock portfolio.
The law of averages also comes into play. Babe Ruth was the strikeout king, but few remember that over his record-breaking number of home runs. Most successful ideas evolve over time, so innovators need to take a lot of swings — test a lot of ideas. Some will fail, some will be okay, but the law of averages would indicate others will be great innovations. Those who think, or have bosses who think, that they will only get one shot at innovation success rarely move their idea (which might actually be great) from concept to reality. Innovation is a mindset, not a task.
One final concept that resonated with me was that the road to innovation is often a meandering path that doesn’t happen on a tight timeline, and what some people see as procrastination may actually be processing! Sometimes even the best ingredients need to simmer for a while before they are ready. The insights we discover and connections we make while subconsciously working through an idea are often things we would have totally missed if the idea wasn’t already percolating in the back of our mind. Sure, we can’t process forever . . . but I’ve often found that you have to allow the time to connect the dots if an innovation is to be successful.
The larger lesson in all of this . . . conformity is over-rated. Want to move the world in 2017? Be an original.