Five Tips for Original Thinking

Mike Peña, Stanford University May 19, 2017

Why are the best ideas often the ones that don’t seem to make sense? Bestselling author Adam Grant, one of the most influential management thinkers in America, recently came to Stanford to give a talk that was chock-full of counterintuitive tips for anyone seeking to be a better business leader — citing scholarly research and case studies from his 2016 book “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.”

1. Bosses Have It Backwards

The saying “don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions” means no one asks the toughest questions. Instead of a culture of advocacy, Grant says managers should foster an environment of inquiry in order to spur innovation.

2. Imagine How to Kill Your Company

Thinking of competitive threats could reveal big business opportunities. Call a meeting and invite everyone to share ideas for how to kill the company. Grant says vulnerabilities may be the seeds of growth.

3. Beat Haters to the Punch

Lead with your flaws and turn skeptics into problem solvers. An entrepreneur begins his pitch to investors by giving three reasons why they shouldn’t give him their money, and then walks away with $3.2 million in funding. Here’s why.

4. Hire for Culture Fit or Culture Add?

It depends on whether you’re a small startup or a big business. The shared values that fuel a venture in the beginning can slow growth once it goes public and requires more diversity of thought, Grant explains.

5. Let Your Mind Drift Before the Meeting

Studies show that bosses might be in a better headspace to evaluate an employee’s idea if they take a few minutes beforehand to think about something completely different. Grant describes how a quick brainstorm can wash away the negativity that often clouds a manager’s judgment.

Watch Grant’s entire talk at the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar.