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Lessons from Adam Grant at the 2017 PSPS Leadership Forum

On October 10th Villanova HRD program had the honor to sponsor the PSPS (Philadelphia Society for People and Strategy) annual Leadership Forum. This event brings together HR leaders from the Philadelphia area for a morning of networking and learning. This year’s speaker was Adam Grant and his talk focused on “Building a Culture of Originality, Generosity and Resilience.”

Adam is a prolific writer, a magician (we learned during the event) and the famed youngest, tenured Wharton professor. He warms up to you by telling you about the investment mistakes he’s made, like passing on Warby Parker, and pitching himself as a non-conformist. While he’s demonstrated skill in many things I believe his curiosity has been his biggest gift. My sense is that when he comes across something he doesn’t understand, he studies this thing and then he writes about it for others to understand.

During the event, Adam shared insights from his books. In his book Originals, he tells of his “pre-crastinator” style and juxtaposes it against the typical procrastinator showing how the most original people are in the sweet spot in the middle. In Option B his dive into resilience in partnership with Sheryl Sandberg conjures a softer side, suggesting a level of emotional intelligence.

Grant values the contrarian approach and proves it by challenging norms like, the use of the statement by many managers to “not bring me problems, bring me solutions,” noting the problem that comes when people stop telling you about problems. Or, let’s do “entry interviews” rather than waiting for people to be frustrated enough to leave and then do exit interviews. Both are important ideas to challenge our rote methods.

You can check out two of Grant’s TED talks on his books Give and Take and Originals.

Suffice it to say we had a rich morning with Adam Grant, loved hearing more about Originals, and took away many ideas on how we could consider what we’re presently doing and what we could be doing better when it comes to culture development.


Janet S. Steinwedel, PhD, is an adjunct professor with the Villanova HRD Masters Program. She worked internally in organizations for more than 20 years before starting her own consulting and executive coaching business primarily serving the Delaware Valley for 12 years. She is an author of two books. The most recent published just this month: Authenticity as an Executive Coach: Waking up the Wounded Healer Archetype.

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