By Gaylin Jee
“The last time you had an original idea, what did you do with it?” Adam Grant
We’re still using yesterday’s models and hoping they will solve tomorrow’s challenges. That’s not impossible, but it will become increasingly unrewarding.
The proposed and impending World Economic Forum’s Fourth Industrial Revolution is set to radically shift life as we know it. Technology will be at the core of most work, whatever form work will take. Digital transformation will make way for digital sustainability. Innovation hubs and heroes, rather than offering magic bullets, will only take you part of the way. End states and narrow, short-term profits will, and should be, yesterday’s goals.
There are those people who see and create worlds of opportunity amidst ‘chaos’. We assume these people are innately creative, natural-born natural leaders, or that the people who have a naturally supersonic vision, purpose and impact in the world are rare. Given their propensity to navigate through challenge, we ask – what’s in their DNA? Where we can find them? How we can work with them? We also ask – how can we grow and develop them?
We have a picture of more radical risk-takers and innovators, called game changers, from 2015 research. And we understand more about the composition of the team that drives game changing outputs. Now we also know, thanks to Adam Grant’s work ‘Originals’, that not all originality requires extreme risk taking. “I want to persuade you”, he says, “that originals are actually far more ordinary than we realise.” Grant defines originals as people who take the road less traveled, championing novel ideas that go against the grain but ultimately make things better.
Why should this be significant? Because all of us can learn to be Originals.
There is a growing body of evidence to suggest many entrepreneurs are just ‘ordinary’, with the same fears and the same doubts as all of us.
The best entrepreneurs, says Linda Rottenberg, are not risk maximisers. They take calculated risks, and don’t like risk any more than the rest of us. When extreme risk is taken in one area, it is usually balanced with cuation in another. Rottenberg is CEO of Endeavour, and has spent decades training many of the worlds great entrepreneurs. She is known as “la chica loca” (the crazy girl) for insisting that entrepreneurs were not only to be found in Silicon Valley, but also in emerging markets around the world.
Those who champion originality, rather than conformity, move us forward. And they are not so different from most us of us, says Grant. They appear bold and confident on the outside, but inside, they are also afraid of risk and avoid it. Originals start by questioning default positions, and then take calculated risks. All of us can learn to be Originals. As Sheryl Sandberg notes in her forward to Grant’s book:
“… any one of us can champion ideas that improve the world around us.”
That’s both a liberation and a call to action.
Through this enquiry, perhaps we are coming to learn that those with most impact aren’t necessarily the ones with the most outlandish ideas, or the deepest expertise, but also those activating the broadest perspectives, acting at the right time, with the right people around them.
The session “Crossing the Chasm: From Innovation Hub or Hero To Innovation as Usual – How do we get it right?” was delivered by Gaylin Jee at the 2017 Talent Talks Africa Conference.