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Six Secrets to True Originality

In a sea of cookie cutter clones, most people aspire to have some level of originality. But being original is not the easiest thing to achieve, in business or otherwise. In an article for McKinsey & Company, author and professor Adam Grant shares six secrets to being original that you probably have never heard before:

  1. Have many ideas.
  2. Judge ideas creatively.
  3. Never think you are too old.
  4. Avoid groupthink.
  5. Learn the art of procrastination.
  6. Stick to evidence, not intuition.

Easy Innovation at Last?

Contrary to popular belief, the greats in history did not just have a few “big” ideas, but rather they had tons of smaller-scale ideas. According to Grant, “The reason for that is you have to generate a lot of variety to be original.” Leaders should encourage their employees to have lots of ideas, because the more ideas that they have, the greater the chance that there is an idea of pure brilliance.

It is easy to be swept up in your own genius, and so you will often judge your own ideas too positively. Managers on the other hand often judge ideas too negatively. What needs to happen is to look at an idea with the question of “Is this going to appeal to the audience?” Ideas should not be replicas of what came before; rather, they should intrigue the prospective audience.

Originality is not something that is exclusively for the young. It is becoming more and more common for people with maturity and experience to be the ones with the great ideas. In fact, the average age of a venture-backed founder is 38. When you understand how things work a little bit better, you can often hone into what needs to be rectified with a brilliant new idea.

Groupthink however is the “barrier to innovation,” and even groups that take steps to dodge it can end up embodying it anyway. For instance, when someone is purposely selected to play the role of devil’s advocate, they often do not play it well because they are wearing the hat just to wear it. Sometimes, the opposite is true and they are passionate about their opposing stance, but the audience just thinks they are arguing to argue. Leaders need to encourage employees to argue their own ideas with sincerity and conviction.

Procrastination does not have to be a terrible thing. When people begin a project immediately, they often have tunnel vision, but if they take a few moments to step back and analyze everything–aka procrastinate–they may just come up with a far superior solution. Studies suggest that those who procrastinate are more creative and original.

Some good decisions can be made on gut instincts, but it is a far better idea to make decisions based on the cold, hard evidence rather than a mere feeling. People who make decisions based on the evidence can even help to train others to do the same.

For even more examples and insights, you can read the original article here: http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/six-secrets-to-true-originality

About Danielle Koehler

Danielle is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. She has degrees in English and human resource management from Shippensburg University.

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