Adam Grant’s 5 Tips for Encouraging Originals

One way to understand what it means to have a human workplace is to examine voice. Can people in your company speak up honestly? Is their feedback welcomed and listened to? Or is it silenced?
These were some of the questions explored in Adam Grant’s keynote session on Wednesday morning. Based on his research studying originals, he shared his top five tips for encouraging original and creative ideas.

  1. Rethink exit interviews. “Why do you wait until people are walking out the door to figure out what could have kept them?” asked Grant. Instead, interview new employees in their first week with the company to figure out what gets them energized and motivated in their work.
  2. Put your worst foot forward. Sounds counterintuitive, right? But Grant said the research shows that when people talk honestly about what’s both good and bad about their idea, people are most likely to trust them and listen to them.
  3. Make the unfamiliar familiar. On average, it takes 10 to 20 exposures to a new idea before people start to appreciate it. If you have a new idea, find something that’s similar and say, “This is just like that other thing.” Example? Disney was able to sell the idea of The Lion King by comparing it to Hamlet, a famous Shakespeare play.
  4. Criticize leaders in public. I think this is the most difficult tip for companies to truly implement. But Grant says that in order to stay competitive, it’s important for organizations to make it safe for everyone to exercise their voice. It’s how you improve and stay ahead of the curve. “We are all works in progress. That’s part of what it means to be human,” he said.
  5. Fight groupthink. Grant spoke about this in depth with us in an interview earlier this year. Companies often hyper-focus on hiring for culture fit, yet this is often a proxy for groupthink. Instead, hire for cultural contribution. Our workplaces are more creative and innovative when they are diverse and welcome opposing points of view.

Grant closed with his final thought on what HR leaders can do when they return to their organizations: “The best thing we can do is figure out whose voices are not being heard and invite those voices into the conversation.”

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