After reading Chapter 2 in Adam Grant's Originals, I am planning on kissing more frogs! You've heard the saying, "Sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince." In this chapter, Grant shows us how this saying relates to idea creation and originality.
In Chapter 2, Grant introduces us to some of the work of Dean Simonton, Ph.D. - Distinguished Professor of Psychology at UC-Davis. Simonton's work on creativity and human intelligence demonstrates some of the misconceptions we hold about original ideas. "Simonton finds that on average, creative geniuses weren't qualitatively better in their fields than their peers. They simply produced a greater volume of work, which gave them more variation and a higher chance of originality. The odds of producing an influential or successful idea are a positive function of the total number of ideas generated."
"The odds of producing an influential or successful idea are a positive function of the total number of ideas generated."
This point was one of my favorite takeaways from this chapter. I have been under the common misconception that creative geniuses are just better at delivering creative ideas. As Grant shows us, this is not true; original thinkers and creative geniuses tend to have more bad ideas than the rest of us, simply because they have more ideas. We remember Beethoven for The Fifth Symphony and Van Gogh for The Starry Night. We aspire to be this creative and original but are often disappointed when our first or second attempt at creativity is not a work of art. It is easy to think that you are not a creative when comparing your first or second try to a masterpiece. But Beethoven composed more than 300 pieces during his life time; Van Gogh painted more than 1,000 paintings. Too often we label ourselves as "not creative" after a few failed attempts or what we view as sub par experiences -- but the lesson is to keep trying. We should be producing more, not less. Grant says, "It is widely assumed that there's a trade off between quantity and quality - if you want to do better work, you have to do less of it - but this turns out to be false. In fact, when it comes to idea generation, quantity is the most predictable path to quality." In other words, kiss more frogs!
"When it comes to idea generation, quantity is the most predictable path to quality."
It also struck me while reading this chapter that producing original work is not a game of 'Hot or Cold.' Surely you remember this game from childhood: one person hides a small object somewhere in the room, while the other person begins looking for the object while informed by either the word, "warmer" or "colder," as they move closer or further from the object. Wouldn't it be nice if there was an indicator telling us warmer or colder as we produced new ideas? As Grant says, "If creators knew when they were on their way to fashioning a masterpiece, their work would progress only forward." But original ideas do not come with indicators and there is no assessment that will tell you when in the idea creation process you produce your best work. This is why you can't stop short. You have too keep creating until you find what works, what sells, what moves others. Fashion and refashion your ideas; iterate and reiterate. You can not be discouraged by work that is not perfect. You simply need to keep trying. Very few artists produce their masterpieces on the first try; very few of us fall in love with our first date. We must keep kissing frogs until we find our prince.
What were your takeaways from Chapter 2 of Originals? #VUHRDOneBook
Bethany J. Adams, MA is an Assistant Director in the Graduate HRD program at Villanova University. Learn more about her here!