Which browser are you currently using to read this post? Explorer? Safari? Firefox? Chrome? The answer could reveal more about yourself than you think. If you have read the first chapter in Adam Grant's Originals, our VUHRD One Book this year, you already know why. And for those HR recruiters desperately looking for ways to determine which candidate is more committed and a better performer, you definitely need to know the secret. No, I won't give it away; you will need to read the book. But this post should give you a few clues.
The first story that jumped out at me in chapter one of Originals, was that of Warby Parker, the scrappy online glasses start-up that took on Luxottica, the largest eyewear company that controlled 80% of the market. Their moment of vuja de was what led to their original idea. Vuja de is the opposite of deja vu, or seeing something familiar but with a fresh perspective that allows you to gain new insight. "Originality," according to Adam grant, "involves introducing and advancing an idea that's relatively unusual within a particular domain, and that has the potential to improve it." Warby Parker wasn't the first company to sell eyeglasses, but they were the first to do it online at an affordable price point.
"Originality involves introduction and advancing an idea that's relatively unusual within a particular domain, and that has the potential to improve it."
This idea got me thinking, to be original by Grant's definition, I don't have to come up with a brand new idea. It simply has to be new in the context of how it is applied. In this way, I simply need to put on a different pair of glasses and look at the world again. (Pardon my Warby Parker pun.) Perhaps my original idea is waiting in the most ordinary of places, if only I looked through a fresh lens. It is this rejection of what is default that makes an original, original. Not accepting everything at face value and questioning the default settings in our life.
So, where could you use a little vuja de? What default setting have you never questioned before?
The second concept that really peaked my curiosity in chapter one was the notion that "entrepreneurs are significantly more risk-averse than the general population." Isn't the very definition of entrepreneur one who, well, takes risks? According to Grant, an entrepreneur is risky in the aspect of their life that we call them an entrepreneur for, starting Warby Parker, Apple, Google, etc. But that risk is calculated and balanced by the rest of their choices. As Grant puts it, "risks are more like stock portfolios." To be original, one does not need to throw caution to the wind and abandon all other pursuits. In fact, if you want your pursuits to succeed, you are better off hedging your bets.
"Entrepreneurs are significantly more risk-averse than the general population."
While this idea struck me as counter intuitive initially, it is appealing to consider. I don't have to quit my day job to explore an original idea. I don't have to gamble it all. Cautious pursuit of an original idea is still pursuit of the idea. I keep a balanced stock portfolio; why wouldn't I do the same with risk in other aspects of my life?
Has the fear of risk held you back from pursuing originality? How might you take steps to balance the risk to allow the pursuit of your idea?
As Grant points out in chapter one, "originality is an act of creative destruction." To do something new requires abandoning the old. This act of creative destruction requires rejecting the default and balancing risk. While not everyone will be the next Warby Parker, we all have original ideas to contribute to our organizations, teams and jobs. Without creative destruction, we would never improve.
Have you figured out the link to your internet browser yet? If not you will have to read chapter one to find out.
What were your biggest takeaways from chapter one of Originals? #VUHRDOneBook
Bethany J. Adams, MA is an Assistant Director in the Graduate HRD program at Villanova University. Learn more about her here!