News & Views

Cannes Lions / Seminar Debrief: Originals

by Emily Hare

Adam Grant, author and professor at the Wharton School of Business took to the stage to share the key traits of original thinkers, followed by a discussion with Dana Anderson, SVP and Global Chief Marketing Officer at Mondelez International

Grant shared the most important things he has learnt about creative originals while researching and writing his book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. He sees these non-conformists as demonstrating four key traits:

1. Originals Are Late to the Party

Grant explained that there is a relationship between procrastination and how creative you are, elaborating that there is a sweet spot that can enable the best creative work. He advises that originals are quick to start but slow to finish. If, once they know about a task or challenge, they deliberately delay completing it, they allow time for divergent thinking and for ideas to percolate, which leads to more creative solutions. 

2. Originals Take Risks on Novel Ideas

Grant explained how managers are not incentivised to take risks on novel ideas, in fact, the more novel an idea was, the less likely they are to give it a chance. If they pass on an idea, most of the time, no one will ever know, but there could be serious repercussions if they back an idea that is risky if it doesn't pay off. Grant says 'managers commit these false negatives over and over again because of incentives.' He mentioned the examples of Harry Potter and Seinfeld that proved, ultimately, to be incredibly successful but were tough to sell in because they didn't fit within an existing genre of ideas that had previously been successful. 

Grant's research showed that peers have enough distance to evaluate work. Alternatively, if managers spend five minutes evaluating their own ideas before they evaluate others, they tend to be much more receptive to new lines of thinking.

3. Originals Make the Unfamiliar Familiar

Grant explained that it takes between 10 and 20 exposures to a new idea before other people appreciate it. Originals can connect the dots to something that people already know - like describing the Lion King, Disney's most famous film of the year, as Hamlet with Lions, as opposed to Bambi in Africa. This is why start-ups rely on 'Uber for xxxx' as their pitch.

4. Originals Find the Right Allies

Original creative thinkers can spot the difference between givers and takers, seeking out people who will help them build on problems and learn from solving problems. He also cited the difference between Agreeabilists and Disagreeabilists. Plotting the two characteristics on a grid, as above, he advised people to seek out Disagreeable Givers, who are rough on the surface but willing to give critical feedback that can help improve on ideas. Grant advises that 'if you can get them on board, they will run through walls for you, they're the best allies you could possibly find.'