If we want people to accept our original ideas, we need to speak up about them, then rise and repeat.

71q7mhjgucl-_ac_ul160_sr108160_This is the fifth in 5 blog posts I will be doing on Adam Grant’s fantastic book “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.”

A big part of my job is to research new technologies and determine how they can be leveraged to engage as many students as possible in thinking, planning, and reflecting on their student employment and cooperative education.

In this post I’d like to suggest 2 pro tips to get other people to believe in your original ideas:

  1. If we want people to accept our original ideas, we need to speak up about them, then rise and repeat.
  2. Lead with the limitations of an idea: it makes you look smart.

When Facebook launched Farmville, I created a Facebook scavenger hunt game called OSAville (for the Office of Student Affairs). When Snapchat filters were big, I researched OpenCV and Python and created a computer vision visualization that superimposed a green mustache on the viewer. And when students commented that our social media posts were sounding too “businessy,” I created a Twitter clone and had a contest to find out who could write the best tweet.

Each idea required careful study to determine what outcomes I wanted to generate. On top of that, I had to pitch the idea to my supervisors. Some might say this is the hardest part of creating original ideas,

“This is the core challenge of speaking up with an original idea. When you present a new suggestion, you’re not only hearing the tune in your head. You wrote the song. You’ve spent hours, days, weeks, months, or maybe even years thinking about the idea. You’ve contemplated the problem, formulated the solution, and rehearsed the vision. You know the lyrics and the melody of your idea by heart. By that point, it’s no longer possible to imagine what is sounds like to an audience that’s listening to it for the first time.” – Adam Grant

That’s not to say that all of my ideas were approved. Some were approved the first time and some took more research and reframing to get at the heart of the idea.

Grant likens this necessary process to “the exposure effect – the more often we encounter something, the more we like it.”

Grant also provides step by step details on how to bring up your original idea often:

“Liking continues to increase as people are exposed to an idea between ten and twenty times, with additional exposure still useful for more complex ideas. Interestingly, exposures are more effective when they’re short and mixed with other ideas, to help maintain the audiences curiosity. It’s also best to introduce a delay between the presentation of the idea and the evaluation of it, which provides time for it to sink in. If you’re making a suggestion to a boss, you might start with a 30-second elevator pitch during a conversation on Tuesday, revisit it briefly the following Monday, and then ask for feedback at the end of the week.” – Adam Grant

His final tip on getting your ideas pitched and approved over time is to do something irrational – start with reasons why this is a stupid idea, why it’ll never work, or why it’s doomed to fail.

“When you are pitching a novel idea or speaking up with a suggestion for change, your audience is likely to be skeptical. Investors are looking to poke holes in your arugments; mangers are hunting for a reason why your suggestion won’t work. Under those circumstances, for at least four reasons, it’s actually more effective to adopt powerless communication by accentuating the flaws in your idea.” – Adam Grant

Why does this irrational approach work? Grant goes on to explain,

“When we’re aware that someone is trying to persuade us, we naturally raise our mental shields. Rampant confidence is a red flag – a signal that we need to defend ourselves against weapons of influence.” – Adam Grant

So maybe starting with the worst parts of your idea is better than looking like you discovered the fountain of youth:

“Unbridled optimism comes across as salesmanship; it seems dishonest somehow, and as a consequence it’s met with skepticism. Everyone is allergic to the feeling, or suspicious of being sold.” – Adam Grant

Be a prophet of doom with a killer idea:

“When people presented drawbacks or disadvantages, I would become an ally. Instead of selling me, they’ve given me a problem to solve. Prophets of doom and gloom appear wise and insightful while positive statements are seen as having a naive polyanna quality.” – Adam Grant

So now you know: you’re going to need to repeat your original ideas over and over again before other people start to accept them. Now you also know to lead with the potential deal-breaking attributes of your idea to look less manipulative.

I hope this post helped equip you for going out there and selling your ideas.  Got any questions? Contact me.


Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

71q7mhjgucl-_ac_ul160_sr108160_This is the fourth in 5 blog posts I will be doing on Adam Grant’s fantastic book “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.”

A few years ago, I read an interesting story in the book “Art and Fear: Observations On the Perils (and rewards) or Artmaking” by David Bayles. The story stuck with me. In the book, Bayles tells a story of a ceramics teacher who decided to try something new with his students.

At the beginning of the class the instructor split the group in half and said, “This half of the room will be judged and graded on the number of clay pots you create in this class.”

Then he gestured to the other side of the room saying, “And this half of the room will judged on how well they made a single clay pot at the end of the class.”

At the end of the class, who got the better grade? Think you know the answer? Hold on, I’ll tell you the answer at the end of this post.

Imagine my surprise when I heard the same lesson echoed in “Originals”:

“The best way to make good art is to make a lot of it. The odds of producing an influential or successful idea are a positive function of the total number of ideas generated. If you want to be original, the most important possible thing you could do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work.” – Adam Grant

Now do you feel like you know who got the better grade? The students who made tons of clay pots ended up getting the better grade. When the students who were to be judged on a single pot were given their task, the pending judgment prevented them from making a single clay pot. They were goaded in a state of paralysis.

Bottom line: don’t get caught up in thinking about the final result. Focus on the next step. Hell, if you have the resources, make many drafts. Your first few drafts will stink of hesitation and clumsiness. Keep pushing through those shitty drafts and soon you’ll start to see less of your lumbering, plodding, doubt. And the finesse and elegance of your self-editing will make the art sing.

Be like the poet Mandy Kahn when she says, “I never think further than the single poem I’m working on when I’m working.”

Keep your head down and remember,

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Adam Grant

Did this post help you get started? Email me, I’d love to hear about it.

The greatest tragedy of mankind comes from the inability of people to have thoughtful disagreement to find out what’s true.

71q7mhjgucl-_ac_ul160_sr108160_This is the third in 5 blog posts I will be doing on Adam Grant’s fantastic book “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.”

“The greatest tragedy of mankind comes from the inability of people to have thoughtful disagreement to find out what’s true.” – Ray Dalio

I don’t know about you but when I grew up our family didn’t fight. It sounds fake but it’s true. How about yours? Did they fight? Yes of course they did. And so did mine.  They just did it behind closed doors.

I was taught that it was rude to fight in public – any kind of fight. If my brother got the bigger half of the cookie we were told to stop fighting. When our parents divorced we were discouraged from yelling and talking about it in public.

Imagine how surprising it was for me to see this quote from Adam Grant:

“If we rarely see a spat, we learn to shy away from the threat of conflict. Witnessing arguments – and participating in them – helps us grow a thicker skin. We develop the will to fight uphill battles and the skill to win those battles, and the resilience to lose a battle today without losing our resolve tomorrow. For the Wright brothers, argument was the family trade and a fierce one was something to be savored. Conflict was something to embrace and resolve. “I like scrapping with Orv,” Wilbur said.” – Adam Grant

Adam Grant, this time writing in the Singapore’s StaitsTime, in an article called “Kids, please start arguing for creativity’s sake” adds,

“Families who know how to quarrel in a good-natured way nurture some of the most innovative thinkers, research shows. If kids never get exposed to disagreement, we’ll end up limiting their creativity.” – Adam Grant

Grant shows that conflict is required to tangle apart our own beliefs.

“If no one ever argues, you’re not likely to give up on old ways of doing things, let alone try new ones. Disagreement is the antidote to groupthink. We’re at our most imaginative when we’re out of sync. There’s no better time than childhood to learn how to dish it out – and to take it.” – Adam Grant

Rather than seeing red faces launching into debate as a sign to dive for cover,

“Children need to learn the value of thoughtful disagreement. Sadly, many parents teach kids that if they disagree with someone, it’s polite to hold their tongues. Rubbish. What if we taught kids that silence is bad manners. It disrespects the other person’s ability to have a civil argument – and it disrespects the value of your own viewpoint and your own voice. It’s a sign of respect to care enough about someone’s opinion that you’re willing to challenge it.” – Adam Grant

Now if you’re like me and were raised in a home that bottled up anger only to unleash it in explosive bursts when the doors were closed, you might need some tips on how to use anger and debate constructively. Luckily for us, Grant provides us with 4 rules to keep arguing civil and constructive:

We can start with four rules:

  1. Frame it as a debate, rather than a conflict.
  2. Argue as if you’re right but listen as if you’re wrong.
  3. Make the most respectful interpretation of the other person’s perspective.
  4. Acknowledge where you agree with your critics and what you’ve learned from them.

Did this post make you mad? Let me know by emailing me or leaving me a comment. But make sure it’s constructive. You could be on your way to embracing argument and finding the value in “thoughtful disagreement.”

Isolate yourself from the naysayers at your own peril

71q7mhjgucl-_ac_ul160_sr108160_This is the second in 5 blog posts I will be doing on Adam Grant’s fantastic book “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.”

“Once a market becomes dynamic, big companies with strong cultures are too insular: They have a harder time recognizing the need for change, and they’re more likely to resist the insights of those who think differently.”

After building an empire with instant photos, Polaroid founder, Edwin H. Land, isolated himself from the naysayers as he attempted a second coup – the Polaroid movie camera. 

“When Polaroid president William McCune questioned the concept, Land complained to the board of directors and gained complete control over the project, working on a separate floor where naysayers were denied access. ‘He was able to override all kinds of objections and obvious reasons why things [were] not going to work. When he [was] doing something wild and risky, he [was] careful to insulate himself from anyone who’s critical.'” – Adam Grant

Unfortunately for Land, his method of insulating himself from the naysayers didn’t pay off. “The effort burned through about $600 million, and the board dethroned him.”

Contrast this to Ray Dalio at Bridgewater Associates who believes in “radical candor.”

Bridgewater has prevented groupthink by inviting dissenting opinions from every employee in the company.

“Although he has been called the Steve Jobs of investing, employees don’t communicate with him as if he’s anyone special. here’s an email that Jim, a client adviser, sent to Dalio after a meeting with an important potential client,

Ray – you deserve a D for your performance today… you rambled for 50 minutes… It was obvious to all of us that you did not prepare at all because there was no way you could have been that disorganized at the outset if you had prepared. We told you this prospect has been identified as a ‘must-win’… today was really bad… we can’t let this happen again.”

Can you imagine getting that kind of email from your employee? Suddenly “radical candor” doesn’t seem as appealing.

“At a typical company, sending an email this critical of a boss would be career suicide. But instead of reacting defensively, Dalio responded by asking others who attended the meeting to give him honest feedback and grade him on a scale from A to F. Then, instead of hiding Dalio’s shortcomings or attacking the author of the note, Bridgewater’s co-CEO copied the email trail to the entire company so that everyone could learn from the exchange.”

Now I propose a challenge. Which path will you take?

“Land knew how to ‘think different’ yet he created a company that didn’t.” – Adam Grant

Dalio’s “radical candor”might not work in every situation but consider how much farther you can get. Instead of running away, smoothing over, and tolerating bad behavior, embrace it, examine it, and take it head on. 

Did this post bring up any questions for you? Contact me, I’d love to hear about it. 

Hawaii iOS Developer Meetup – Session 44

During this meetup I was planning to go over region monitoring with the tutorial from Ray Wenderlich. I’ve read that the meetup should exist and be directed by the members of the group. Perhaps I took this too far during this meetup.

With the understanding of letting the members direct the meetup, I asked at the beginning of this session what the attending developers wanted to cover: the tutorial or should we just go at it and make it ourselves without following the tutorial. They opted to go at it ourselves without the tutorial.

This was fun and exciting but if I ever do it again, I’ll be sure to spend more time getting ready if the developers choose the second option to go at it and make it ourselves without the tutorial.

I feel that if I could do this meetup over again, I would review the basics of setting up the mapView, getting an explicit list of mapView delegate methods, and have completed/working code ready to cut and paste. I spent way too much time searching online for the code snippets. I felt the dead air. And knew I was wasting people’s time – the worst thing I could do.

Notes for next time, prepare for every direction the talk can go – you’re the one steering it!

Next week O’Neil will be covering container views in Interface Builder. I am really looking forward to this meetup because he’ll be discussing concepts I haven’t had the opportunity to familiarize myself with.

Please RSVP if you’re planning to attend this talk. Contact me if you have any questions or need any directions in finding the meetup location.

Great Originals are Great Procrastinators

71q7mhjgucl-_ac_ul160_sr108160_This is the first in 5 blog posts I will be doing on Adam Grant’s fantastic book “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.”

What do Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. have in common? They’re both procrastinators! Read on to learn how each man used procrastination to achieve more than the rest.

Try on this bit of mind-warping wisdom:

“People of genius sometimes accomplish most when they work the least, for they are thinking out inventions and forming in their minds the perfect idea.” – Adam Grant

How does that sit with you? Does it make you feel like you’ve been right all along – waiting until there’s no clean clothes left before you do laundry, waiting until the day your paper’s due to start writing, or doing your taxes on April 15th?

That’s not the kind of procrastination we’re talking about here.

“Great originals are great procrastinators, but they don’t skip planning altogether. They procrastinate strategically, making gradual progress by testing and refining different possibilities.” – Adam Grant

When I code an app, I need time to learn the domain, code up and revise the code, and test out the code to see how it performs, how I react to it, and what can be removed. 

I liken this process of “living with your creation” to the process Hemingway used to view his writing with fresh eyes – he’d finish writing for the day and force himself not to look at it until the next morning. 

Grant shares a story about procrastinating Abraham Lincoln’s style of writing:

“Lincoln probably followed his usual habit in such matters, using great deliberation in arranging his thoughts, and molding his phrases mentally, waiting to reduce them to writing until they had taken satisfactory form.” – Adam Grant

Did you know that Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t start writing the “I have a Dream” speech until a few weeks before the Million Man March on Washington D.C.?

The “I have a dream” part of his speech wasn’t even written down!

After reading that our great president Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. were great procrastinators I don’t feel so bad about my style of living with and working on a project. 

In fact, I feel emboldened to take even more time now. As long as the project gets done on time it doesn’t matter how it got there.

Grant provides even more reasons why we should embrace procrastination in our projects,

“Along with providing time to generate novel ideas, procrastination has another benefit: it keeps us open to improvisation. When we plan well in advance, we often stick to the structure we’ve created, closing the door to creative possibilities that might spring into our fields of vision.” – Adam Grant

What do you think? Were these guys just secret overachievers who could summon the muse at the drop of a hat? Or did the procrastination really keep them “open to improvisation”? I think procrastination is a secret force. Turn it on and “ghost in beast-mode!”

Any questions? Contact me.