Professor of management and psychology Adam Grant released a new book entitled Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. He’s currently researching the qualities of some of the greatest innovators and original thinkers in history — Grant calls them ‘Originals’.
Citing the likes of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Frank Lloyd Wright, Grant found that great innovators tend to operate in the sweet spot between procrastination (i.e. putting things off until the last minute) and precrastination (i.e. being driven by anxiety to begin tackling a task immediately).
Just as I found with his thinking on Givers, Matchers, and Takers, I find Grant particularly effective in bringing structure to a concept that intuitively resonates with me. Upon reflection, I would probably characterize myself as more of a precrastinator than a procrastinator. When facing a new task, I feel compelled to accomplish it quickly; the more daunting the task, the higher my drive to get it done.
However, I’ve found that I’ve been at my most creative when I crank out a first draft on a new task immediately, but then take my sweet time improving upon that draft, mulling it over, sleeping on it, etc. According to Grant, this reflects the happy medium in between precrastination (which is great for productivity) and procrastination (which is better for creativity).
Doubt can be healthy
His research into procrastination led Grant to another observation about doubt. Specifically, he classifies two kinds of doubt: i) self-doubt and ii) idea doubt. Self-doubt means lack of self-confidence and inhibits action. It makes you freeze. Needless to say, Originals suffer very seldom from self-doubt, or they consistently find ways to overcome it.
Idea doubt, on the other hand, is a healthy form of doubt. Grant found that Originals tend to exhibit idea doubt more frequently. Idea doubt means they relentlessly challenge their hypotheses to better crystallize their thoughts. It means acknowledging that first drafts are rough by nature, and can always be improved upon.
No disrespect to Yoda, but there is a Try
By acknowledging that most initial ideas are bad, Originals do not fear failure. Being less afraid of failure means that Originals increase the probability of creating game-changing innovations because they try more things.
The parallel with startup founders is compelling. Rather than falling in love with your first idea and stopping at that, keep churning out new ones. Furthermore, encourage people in your startup to relentlessly brainstorm and generate new ideas. Recognize that you need to spew out a lot of garbage in order to get greatness. Don’t be afraid to experiment!
Read further for Adam Grant’s six practical secrets to being more original.