this book is full of juice – originals by adam grant (part 2)

#19 – Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

Part 1 – Chapters 5-8

Key Points:

1. When you try to sell radical ideas, you need to tie them to what people already understand or want in order to gain acceptance.

2. Don’t expect people in other groups with similar ideas to like or accept you more. They probably think they are superior to you.

3. Chapter 6 of this book is utterly fascinating for siblings and parents. In terms of probability- Laterborns take more risks than firstborns and embrace more original ideas. When bringing up children, help them understand why it’s wrong when you punish them, help them internalise what’s wrong or right. Appeal to their character – say “don’t be a cheater” instead of “don’t cheat”. Praise their character instead of their behaviour. Role models, mentors and good storybooks will help them change the world.

4. Bridgewater Associates is a company that values ideas and is worth studying for their strong culture to be radically transparent. Ray Dalio’s Principles, which can be downloaded for free is also worth reading. Link here.

5. Bringing problems without solutions should always be encouraged. This allows broader thinking and allows problems to be quickly spotted.

6. People need to know that they are not alone before they can act. They also need a greater sense of urgency.

More juice:

So true – “We assume that common goals bind groups together, but the reality is that they often drive groups apart.” From my own experience, a conservative church was willing to let a national broadcaster shoot at their premises but not another church who “spoke in tongues”.

“Horizontal hostility” – Radical groups think that mainstream groups with the same goals are imposters and sellouts.

“Vegans showed nearly three times as much prejudice toward vegetarians as vegetarians did toward vegans.” These vegans think vegetarians sell out by eating eggs.

To sell radical ideas, you must temper present your beliefs and ideas “in ways that are less shocking and more appealing to mainstream audiences.”

“It’s hard to change other people’s ideals. It’s much easier to link our agendas to familiar values that people already hold.”

Rob Minkoff: “Originality is what everybody wants, but there’s a sweet spot. If it’s not original enough, it’s boring or trite. If it’s too original, it may be hard for the audience to understand. The goal is to push the envelope, not tear the envelope.”

Younger siblings take more risks – “Across twenty-four different studies of more than eight thousand people, laterborns were 1.48 times more likely to participate in sports with high injury rates, such as football, rugby, boxing… Firstborns preferred safer sports: baseball, golf, tennis, track, cycling, and crew.”

Firstborns are more likely to win the Nobel Prize and become CEOs. “…one analysis of more than 1,500 CEOs revealed that 43 percent were firstborn.”

“Laterborns have faster salary growth, because they are willing to switch to better-paying jobs sooner and more often.”

“Birth order doesn’t determine who you are; it only affects the probability that you’ll develop in a particular way.”

“Hundreds of studies point to the same conclusion: although firstborns tend to be more dominant, conscientious, and ambitious, laterborns are more open to taking risks and embracing original ideas. Firstborns tend to defend the status quo; laterborns are inclined to challenge it.*”

“When a younger sibling arrives, firstborns risk being “dethroned” and often respond by emulating their parents: they enforce rules and assert their authority over the younger sibling, which sets the stage for the younger child to rebel.
Faced with the intellectual and physical challenges of competing directly with an older sibling, the younger chooses a different way to stand out. ”

In Comedy Central’s 2004 list of the 100 greatest stand-up comics of all time, 44 of them were the lastborn, with 20 being firstborn. Nearly half of them were the youngest in the family.

“parents tend to start out as strict disciplinarians with firstborns and become increasingly flexible with laterborns”

“researchers found that from ages two to ten, children are urged by their parents to change their behavior once every six to nine minutes. As developmental psychologist Martin Hoffman sums it up, this “translates roughly into 50 discipline encounters a day or over 15,000 a year!”

“In one study, parents of ordinary children had an average of six rules, like specific schedules for homework and bedtime. Parents of highly creative children had an average of less than one rule and tended to “place emphasis on moral values, rather than on specific rules,” psychologist Teresa Amabile reports.”

“New research shows that teenagers defy rules when they’re enforced in a controlling manner, by yelling or threatening punishment. When mothers enforce many rules but offer a clear rationale for why they’re important, teenagers are substantially less likely to break them, because they internalize them.”

Emphasising the consequences for patients rather than the consequences for themselves was more effective in getting medical professionals to wash their hands, before and after patient contact.

Character praise (“you’re the kind of person who help others”) vs. behaviour praise (“it was good that you did this”). “Children who received character praise were subsequently more generous.” Character praise is better and maybe especially effective when identities are forming (8 years old).

Appeals to character rather than behaviour is more effective for adults and children. Say “don’t be a cheater” instead of “don’t cheat”.

A role model or mentor is more effective than a parent in shaping a person’s desire to create meaningful change in the world.

“If we want to encourage originality, the best step we can take is to raise our children’s aspirations by introducing them to different kinds of role models.”

“Recent experiments show that reading Harry Potter can improve children’s attitudes toward marginalized groups. As they see Harry and Hermione face discrimination for not having pure wizard blood, they empathize and become less prejudiced toward minority groups in their own lives.”

Berkeley psychologist Charlan Nemeth, one of the world’s leading experts on group decisions: “Minority viewpoints are important, not because they tend to prevail but because they stimulate divergent attention and thought. As a result, even when they are wrong they contribute to the detection of novel solutions and decisions that, on balance, are qualitatively better.”

Cohesiveness doesn’t drive groupthink, the problems are overconfidence and repetitional concerns.

“When I polled executives and students about the strongest culture they had ever encountered in an organization, the landslide winner was Bridgewater Associates.”

“Bridgewater’s secret is promoting the expression of original ideas.”

Every employee in the company is expected to share dissenting opinions. No matter your position, you can send a critical email to the CEO and the CEO will email others for feedback and send the email trail to the entire company so that others will learn.

“At Bridgewater, they’re evaluated on whether they speak up—and they can be fired for failing to challenge the status quo.”

“The goal is to create an idea meritocracy, where the best ideas win. To get the best ideas on the table in the first place, you need radical transparency.”

An authentic dissenter generates 48% more solutions to problems than an assigned devil’s advocate.

Ray Dalio: “The greatest tragedy of mankind comes from the inability of people to have thoughtful disagreement to find out what’s true.”

“Don’t bring me problems; bring me solutions” is a popular refrain among executives and leaders. But this has a dark side. “(David) Hofmann found that a culture that focuses too heavily on solutions becomes a culture of advocacy, dampening inquiry. If you’re always expected to have an answer ready, you’ll arrive at meetings with your diagnosis complete, missing out on the chance to learn from a broad range of perspectives.”

“management scholar Karl Weick advises, “Argue like you’re right and listen like you’re wrong.”

When handling challenges, you can be a strategic optimist (expects the best, remains calm) or a defensive pessimist (expects the worst, feel anxious). People assume the former is better but studies have shown that the latter can perform just as well.

“Neuroscience research suggests that when we’re anxious, the unknown is more terrifying than the negative. As Julie Norem describes it, once people have imagined the worst, “they feel more in control. In some sense, they’ve peaked in anxiety before their actual performance. By the time they get to the event itself they’ve taken care of almost everything.”

Originals have more ups and downs but they live happier lives and have a greater sense of meaning.

People need to know that they are not alone before they can act.

“he shared a story from 1983 of how Chilean miners had mounted a protest against the country’s dictator, Pinochet. Instead of taking the risk of going on strike, they issued a nationwide call for citizens to demonstrate their resistance by turning their lights on and off. People weren’t afraid to do that, and soon they saw that their neighbors weren’t, either. The miners also invited people to start driving slowly. Taxi drivers slowed down; so did bus drivers. Soon, pedestrians were walking in slow motion down the streets and driving their cars and trucks at a glacial pace.”

“In Poland, when activists objected to government lies dominating the news, they knew that simply turning off their televisions wouldn’t show their fellow citizens that they were ready to stand in protest. Instead, they put their TV sets in wheelbarrows and pushed them around the streets. Soon, it was happening in towns throughout Poland—and the opposition eventually won power.”

“Effective displays of humor are what Popovic calls dilemma actions: choices that put oppressors in a lose-lose situation. In Syria, activists emblazoned slogans like “Freedom” and “Enough” on thousands of Ping-Pong balls and dumped them onto the streets of Damascus. When they heard the sound of the bouncing balls, Popovic observes, the people of Syria knew “the nonviolent opposition was sticking its finger into the eye of Assad’s regime.” Soon enough the police showed up. “Huffing and puffing, these guys scoured the capital, scooping up Ping-Pong balls one by one. What the police didn’t seem to realize,” Popovic explains, “was that in this slapstick comedy, the Ping-Pong balls were just the props. It was they themselves, the regime’s enforcers, who had been cast to star as the clowns.”

“When Harvard professor John Kotter studied more than one hundred companies trying to institute major changes, he found that the first error they made was failing to establish a sense of urgency. Over 50 percent of leaders fell short of convincing their employees that change needed to happen, and it needed to happen now. “Executives underestimate how hard it can be to drive people out of their comfort zones,” Kotter writes. “Without a sense of urgency, people . . . won’t make needed sacrifices. Instead they cling to the status quo and resist.”

“If you want people to take risks, you need first to show what’s wrong with the present. To drive people out of their comfort zones, you have to cultivate dissatisfaction, frustration, or anger at the current state of affairs, making it a guaranteed loss.”

Nancy Duarte: “The greatest communicators of all time start by establishing “what is: here’s the status quo.” Then, they “compare that to what could be,” making “that gap as big as possible.”

By venting, you show anger at the perpetrator of the injustice. But what you should do is to  focus on the victims of the injustice.

E. B. White: “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it difficult to plan the day.”

I’m inspired by Mark Zuckerberg’s annual projects and decided to have one of my own.  Read a non-fiction book every week and write about it. Subscribe to my newsletter.

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