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Book Brief - Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

Updated: Aug 21, 2022

I have recently discovered Adam Grant, his podcast and his work. I know, where have I been? Friends, I’m a fan.

This Talent Folks' Book Brief is Adam Grant’s Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. I am navigating my own journey of better learning to influence and get my good ideas out there. While I’ve known this about myself for a while, this year I gained more clarity on it: I tend to dream and plan way into the future. I love dreaming BIG thoughts in the talent space, but sometimes I have trouble articulating and selling those ideas. So, I have a goal to do that better. And Originals seemed like it would offer a few lessons I could apply.

Being the first installment in a series here at the newly established Simply Strategic Talent, it’s good to offer context about why Book Debriefs. In short, we are offering talent development-specific application from business, leadership and sundry books. Nope, not a review. Not a synopsis. Three to five bullets that you can apply to your daily TD life.

1. Originals know that familiarity breeds comfort. The more we humans see, hear, touch and interact with a concept, the more comfortable we become with it and the more acceptable it is. Mixing in exposure to a concept over time and within a variety of conversations works best.

  • So, plant a seed, water it. Plant another seed, water it. So forth. The more you talk about your idea, share an interesting factoid here and there, then the greater likelihood your audience will have an emphatic yes! for you when it’s time to pitch it.

2. Originals realize that investors are looking behind the curtains of the pitch you are delivering. Investors want to see how you execute on an idea and have an idea for your current work product. They are looking for credibility.

  • Before you receive that emphatic yes! to a new idea, you have to deliver solid results with your existing portfolio of work. That means ensuring you are delivering a tight <fill in the blank> program on time, within budget, gaining high customer satisfaction and strong business results. Build credibility with the programs you already own. Then when you’re ready to showcase a new idea, leadership is already confident of the passion and focus on excellence that you bring.

3. Originals are conservative in how they plan / balance / launch new ideas. They may take big risks in one area, and balance it with equal caution in another. They are risk mitigators.

  • In our world, this might look like proposing an innovative update to a leadership development program for one audience while locking down the budget and targeted deliverables for another audience to ensure you’ve got expenses with the new program already covered.

4. Originals embrace “tempered radicalism.” “They believe in values that depart from traditions and ideas that go against the grain, yet they learn to tone down their radicalism by presenting their beliefs and ideas in ways that are less shocking and more appealing to mainstream audiences.” (p 124)

  • We Talent Folk can have some BIG, radical ideas. I love that. We have passion and we shouldn’t temper that. We should however, temper how we share that passion. I lean towards the go big or go home strategy. My dad was a marine, and “no guts, no glory” was shared a lot in our home growing up. I still often think that way, so this is an important lesson for me. I’m going to think about the “moderate ask” that I can pitch first, instead of starting with my over-the-top radical idea. This quote Grant shared from Rob Minkoff helped me: “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.” (p 141)

There are plenty of snackable lessons in Originals. Grab a copy and dive in.

Overall, Mr. Grant, I’m a fan. Thanks for compiling encouragement for those who like to think bigger than today’s box.

Talent Folk, leave a comment and let us know what you apply and how it goes. It's a good time to join the mailing list if you haven't already, too.


Grant, Adam M. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. Penguin Books, 2017.

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