Adam Grant
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July 26, 2019 11:56 PM (CDT)
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June 8, 2023 1:13 PM (CDT)

They know in their hearts that failing would yield less regret than failing to try.

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” Scott Adams

Upworthy’s rule is that you need to generate at least twenty-five headline ideas to strike gold.

But the other group of participants was much more accurate, choosing the most promising new idea over 77 percent of the time. All it took was having them spend their initial six minutes a little differently: instead of adopting a managerial mindset for evaluating ideas, they got into a creative mindset by generating ideas themselves.

His outsider status gave him enough detachment from the standard format of sitcoms to consider something different.

Instead of narrowly scrutinizing what made a sitcom a hit, he had cast a wider net in studying what made comedy in general succeed:

intuitions are only trustworthy when people build up experience making judgments in a predictable environment.

The more successful people have been in the past, the worse they perform when they enter a new environment.

kidney dialysis for diabetic patients. He excelled at creating brilliant solutions to problems identified by others, not in finding the right problems to solve.

In the case of the Segway, he started with a solution and then went hunting for a problem.

Rather than responding to market pull, he made the mistake of initiating a technology push.

them in a biweekly meeting. This means that, just as Justin Berg recommends, the ideas are evaluated not only by managers, but also by fellow creators—who

As Medina gained respect for these efforts, she accumulated what psychologist Edwin Hollander called idiosyncrasy credits—the latitude to deviate from the group’s expectations. Idiosyncrasy credits accrue through respect, not rank:

This is called the Sarick Effect, named after the social scientist Leslie Sarick. In both situations, Griscom was presenting ideas to people who had more power than he had, and trying to convince them to commit their resources. Most of us assume that to be persuasive, we ought to emphasize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses. That kind of powerful communication makes sense if the audience is supportive.

But when you’re pitching a novel idea or speaking up with a suggestion for change, your audience is likely to be skeptical. Investors are looking to poke holes in your arguments; managers are hunting for reasons why your suggestion won’t work. Under those circumstances, for at least four reasons, it’s actually more effective to adopt Griscom’s form of powerless communication by accentuating the flaws in your idea.

When people presented drawbacks or disadvantages, I would become an ally. Instead of selling me, they’ve given me a problem to solve.”

The third advantage of being up front about the downsides of your ideas is that it makes you more trustworthy.

the first time. This explains why we often undercommunicate our ideas. They’re already so familiar to us that we underestimate how much exposure an audience needs to comprehend and buy into them. When Harvard professor John Kotter studied change agents years ago, he found that they typically undercommunicated their visions by a factor of ten.

In one three-month period, employees might be exposed to 2.3 million words and numbers. On average during that period, the vision for change was expressed in only 13,400 words and numbers: a 30-minute speech, an hour-long meeting, a briefing, and a memo. Since more than 99 percent of the communication that employees encounter during those three months does not concern the vision, how can they be expected to understand it, let alone internalize it? The change agents don’t realize this, because they’re up to their ears in information about their vision.

When Carmen Medina became the deputy director of intelligence at the CIA, she knew that if she wanted intelligence analysts to share information more openly, she would have to give them regular exposure to the idea. So she started a blog on the classified intranet in an effort to model the transparency she was advocating. Twice a week, she wrote short commentaries, expressing her views about the need for less secrecy and for sharing news, and suggesting that this would be the wave of the future. At first, many leaders reflexively dismissed the concept. But just as exposure research would suggest, the brief presentations interspersed between other communications—and the delays between them—caused leaders to warm up to Medina’s ideas.

“Timing accounted for forty-two percent of the difference between success and failure.”

If you’re someone who’s tempted to rush into a new domain, this knowledge should stop you cold and leave you thinking carefully about the ideal timing. But Bolton finds something frightening: even when people learn that evidence doesn’t support the first-mover advantage, they still believe in

roughly three out of every four fail because of premature scaling—making investments that the market isn’t yet ready to support.

First-mover advantages tend to prevail when patented technology is involved, or when there are strong network effects (the product or service becomes more valuable when there are a greater number of users, as with telephones or social media).

“To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate made me an authority myself,” Einstein lamented.

Conversely, while experimental innovation can require years or decades to accumulate the requisite knowledge and skill, it becomes a more sustainable source of originality.

After Frank Lloyd Wright received the contract for Fallingwater, his most celebrated architectural work, he procrastinated for nearly a year while making sporadic drawings before finally completing the design at age sixty-eight.

Raymond Davis shared the Nobel Prize in physics for research that he started at fifty-one and finished at the tender age of eighty.

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

You learn from what you discover in your audience, on the canvas, or in the data.

The most promising ideas begin from novelty and then add familiarity, which capitalizes on the mere exposure effect we covered earlier. On average, a novel starting point followed by a familiarity infusion led to ideas that were judged as 14 percent more practical, without sacrificing any originality.

company that didn’t. The evidence suggests that social bonds don’t drive groupthink; the culprits are overconfidence and reputational concerns.

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

In the language of futurist Paul Saffo, the norm is to have “strong opinions, weakly held.”

If you’re about to interact with a few Bridgewater colleagues for the first time, you can see their track records on seventy-seven different dimensions of values, skills, and abilities in the areas of higher-level thinking, practical thinking, maintaining high standards, determination, open-mindedness yet assertiveness, and organization and reliability.

During regular review cycles, employees rate one another on different qualities like integrity, courage, living in truth, taking the bull by its horns, not tolerating problems, being willing to touch a nerve, fighting to get in sync, and holding people accountable.

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

The more principles you have, the greater the odds that employees focus on different values or interpret the same values differently.

In another experiment, when students were nervous before taking a tough math test, they scored 22 percent better if they were told “Try to get excited” instead of “Try to remain calm.”

Popovic, had trained them all. Popovic was one of the masterminds behind Otpor!, the grassroots youth nonviolence movement that overthrew Milosevic.

The easiest way to encourage non-conformity is to introduce a single dissenter.

If you want people to go out on a limb, you need to show them that they’re not alone.

In his workshops, Popovic trains revolutionaries to use humor as a weapon against fear.

Effective displays of humor are what Popovic calls dilemma actions: choices that put oppressors in a lose-lose situation.

Popovic sees a role for amusement wherever fear runs rampant. Instead of trying to decelerate the stop system, he uses laughter to rev up the go system. When you have no power, it’s a powerful way to convert strong negative emotions into positive ones. In one of his workshops, students were up in arms over the exorbitant price of tuition at their university. After hearing Popovic’s stories, they proposed to approach the university president, show him pictures of their ramen-only diet, and invite themselves to weekly dinners at his house.

But in the second case, we’re presented with a guaranteed loss. Now, we’re willing to do whatever it takes to avoid that loss, even if it means risking an even bigger one. We’re going to lose thousands of jobs anyway, so we throw caution to the wind and make the big gamble, hoping that we’ll lose nothing.

it helped give rise to the field of behavioral economics and win Kahneman a Nobel Prize. It revealed that we can dramatically shift risk preferences just by changing a few words to emphasize losses rather than gains. This knowledge has major implications for understanding how to motivate people to take risks.

This “kill the company” exercise is powerful because it reframes a gain-framed activity in terms of losses. When deliberating about innovation opportunities, the leaders weren’t inclined to take risks. When they considered how their competitors could put them out of business, they realized that it was a risk not to innovate. The urgency of innovation was apparent.