Being Original

Ah, Summertime! Time to stop moving so fast, take a vacation, and regroup. Summer is also the perfect time to catch up on some great books. This post is about one of the books I’m currently reading titled “Originals: How Non-Conformist Move the World” by Adam Grant.

My disclaimer: I haven’t finished the book yet, but there are so many great snippits that keep running through my mind, that I decided to put the book down and share six quotes in the first 100 pages that have me thinking.

Practice makes perfect, but it doesn’t make new. Pg 9

Ever wonder why we keep doing what we’ve always done? I think it has a lot to do with the fact most schools claim they are into “continuous improvement”, but in reality we are more into continual (predictable) actions reinforced by positive or neutral feedback, which solidifies a culture of acceptable behaviors mostly remaining status quo.

…the most creative children are the least likely to become the teacher’s pet. Pg 9

The people we tend to surround ourselves with are those who are most like us. They think like us, they act like us, they communicate like us. Where does that leave the non-conformist? No matter if you are a student or adult, it makes sense those who hold viable ideas for change just might be the ones who are the most misunderstood.

Risks are like stock portfolios. Pg 18

A salient takeaway in Originals is the idea that making sustainable and important change in systems requires thoughtful balance and what I would call productive risk taking. Diversification is something we all know is important in our financial portfolios but it also holds true in determining when and how we take risks within our system.

“Originality is not a fixed trait. It is free choice.” Pg 24

We hear so much about personalizing learning, blended learning, and transforming learning all with the idea that we need to find ways to support students to take ownership over their learning. I think the best path to making sustainable change is to model this behavior with the adults in schools. Where do EDUCATORS get to impart their originality within our school systems? If our schools embraced these practices in our adult learners, would we essentially grow a “Next Gen” hyperconnected and motivated population of teachers?

The biggest barrier to originality is not idea generation – it’s idea selection. Pg 31

I’m a big “what if” person who loves to go to conferences, sift through Twitter, read blog posts all in search of great ideas to help us “solve” our most pressing problems. Idea generation is exciting but it can also be almost debilitating for some as decision paralysis can creep in as ideas are shouted out. A couple of years ago I read and blogged about Essentialism where you focus on distinguishing what is truly important and get rid of the rest. Let’s face it, if you go after everything, you really won’t achieve anything.

Throughout Originals, I was constantly drawn in by stories of success and failure. The idea that the most creative people are typically those who produce and share a greater volume of work makes me think about the countless blog posts and tweets out there… snippits of the work being done to transform education by practitioners who are willing to share it all. I’ve always felt like we come to the table with half of a good idea, and now feel that more than ever. Why? Because:

  • Crowdsourcing helps refine ideas through gaining feedback from different perspectives
  • Communicating an idea multiple times helps build the exposure effect and increase the likelihood that you are can articulate your ideas positively and succinctly
  • Percolating an idea keeps your mind engaged on developing more unique solutions

One of my favorite quotes in the first 100 pages of Originals, is below:

Once a task is finished, we stop thinking about it. But when it is interrupted and left undone, it stays active in our minds. Pg 99

If we are really never done learning, why should our ideas be tied in a pretty bow before we share them? What idea have you shared lately that has been improved by others?


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