How to Build a Culture of Originality:


Source: HBR, March 2016 , page 86


Fresh, innovative thinking is essential for business growth, and most people—not just a few gifted “visionaries”—are capable of it. So says the Wharton School’s Adam Grant, whose research shows that you can develop this skill in your organization by creating a culture of nonconformity. Start by giving employees license to let their imaginations run wild: A large quantity of diverse ideas will ultimately yield the highest-quality ones. To help people dream up a multitude of new products, strategies, or solutions, encourage them to adopt the mindset of a competitor, for example, and have them generate ideas privately (group brainstorming tends to conform to the majority’s taste). Once lots of ideas are in, get feedback on which one to pursue from the right people: other innovators with a track record of spotting winners. You might even stage a contest to find the best ideas, and have peer judges and other subject-matter experts vet the submissions and suggest improvements. Sustaining a culture of originality is as important as building it. So focus, too, on balancing cultural cohesion (which can improve decision making) with creative dissent (which prevents a strong culture from becoming a cult). Long-term, it’s the combination of the two that brings great ideas to the table.



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