Is anyone in your orbit a true “original thinker”; someone who tends to get meaningful things done in an unconventional way? They may be pointing us all to habits we could use to start improving the world around us!

Let’s open today’s Ever Widening Circles (EWC) article with a thought experiment:

Think of someone in your circle of friends, relatives or coworkers who is respected because of their knack for coming up with novel ideas or ways to solve problems in tough situations. (Maybe it’s you!)

No really, take a minute to have someone in mind.

Got one?

Now think about their habits. Are they super steady in their approach to problem-solving, planning ahead meticulously, always getting things done with plenty of breathing room? Are their ideas always great right from the beginning, and are they efficient with other people’s time? Sounds like the path to success, doesn’t it?

Image: Black and white apples with a red apple in the center

Source: Pixabay

Turns out there are characteristics common to the best idea people that are not in line with the common wisdom.

In fact, many of the characteristics are completely counter-intuitive. And best of all, we can learn to emulate those qualities and improve our own skills and reputation for having original ideas that often “save the day.”

Today on Ever Widening Circles (EWC) we’ll take a deep dive into the process of generating great ideas with organizational psychologist Adam Grant, a professor at the world renown Wharton School of Business. Here’s why he might be a great guide for this adventure:

“Adam Grant has been recognized as Wharton’s top-rated teacher for five straight years, and as one of the world’s 25 most influential management thinkers and Fortune‘s 40 under 40. As an organizational psychologist, he studies how we can find motivation and meaning, and lead more generous and creative lives.” 1

We came across this TED Talk just recently and knew we had to share it widely. It gives us all a bit of a recipe for growing our own creative sparks and points to the confidence we can have in thought leaders who are already changing the world.

See what you think!

Via: TED 2

Brilliant insights there, huh?!

Keys to “Success” for Original Thinkers

We loved this concept of “incubation”: the idea that our brains will work in the background, considering ideas that are not obvious. Many of the thought leaders we’ve featured here on EWC mention that as a part of their creative process.

Have you ever had an ah-ha moment in the shower, or at some point when you were definitely not working consciously on a problem? That may be the potential that Adam Grant is describing. And we loved his main conclusions:

  1. 1) To be original, we don’t have to be first. We just have to do our own research and from there come up with a novel improvement.

2) To be original, we need to proudly accept that the first few drafts of every idea are crummy, and embrace the failure/improvement cycle.

3) We have to be the kind of person who will doubt “the default” and look for a better option.

4) Being quick to start but slow to finish may be key to many of the best ideas, because some procrastination generates some creative tension.

“The greatest originals are the ones who fail the most, because they’re the ones who try the most,” Grant says. “You need a lot of bad ideas in order to get a few good ones.”

Image: Plan A and Plan B sign

Source: Pixabay

Improving the World Around Us

We could easily leave it here. Adam Grant’s ideas about original thinkers might best apply to each of us advancing great ideas in our own small spheres of influence. But what if there is an even bigger opportunity for these concepts to shine?

When listening to the TED Talk, did some of Adam’s conclusions seem a bit obvious, once he cut across the common wisdom about success?

I couldn’ t help but ponder whether we’ve stacked the deck against the chance of creating more original thinkers: We reward coworkers who start and finish every assignment well ahead of time. We have organized our entire education system to hold up failure as the worst possible outcome. Social media ensures that we take as little risk as possible, in order to look perfect, happy and successful at every turn.

Hmm? This kind of insight may explain a lot when we think about some of our most vexing global problems. There is absolutely no space for original thinking in our news media. Everything is binary. It’s all about right versus wrong.

What if our failures to be “original thinkers” is at the heart of our most intractable divisions in society?

It does seem like we all have no time to waste in choosing which side we are on when the 24-hour news cycle ignites a major social debate. What if more people did not accept the “default opinions”, and even considered those initial waves of conclusions in the news as “crappy first drafts”, to quote Adam?

Let’s look at Adam’s graph:

Image: The arch plotted on Adam Grant's graph about the sweet spot

Could that sweet spot Adam refers to apply to each of us pausing to come up with better ideas for ourselves, about social problems; much more original ideas than the pundits (on either side) would want us to embrace?

What if we all procrastinated a bit before making up our minds about choosing “our side”, and after doing a lot of research of our own, we even came up with our own novel improvements to those defaults?

I have a feeling the world would be a much better place.

Want to see one of our most important EWC articles, that definitely illuminates this topic? Not a week goes by that I don’t consider the insight from the TED Talk in the following article. (Have fun with it!)

17 minutes

What Fear Can Teach Us About the Stories We Tell Ourselves

DO NOT MISS THIS! If you are turning your back on all the fear and malice in the news media these days, this TED Talk is a really fun and "game-changing" insight! (We use it almost every day)

Read More

As we close today’s article, we thought you might want to continue this journey into possibility with more of Adam’s work and there was no better synopsis than what we found on the Wharton School’s website:

Adam is the author of three New York Times bestselling books that have sold over a million copies and been translated into 35 languages. Give and Takeon why helping others drives our success, was named one of the best books of 2013 by Amazon, the Financial Times, and the Wall Street Journal— as well as one Oprah‘s riveting reads and Harvard Business Review‘s ideas that shaped management. Originals, on how individuals champion new ideas and leaders fight groupthink, was a #1 national bestseller praised by J.J. Abrams, Richard Branson, and Malcolm Gladwell. Option B, coauthored with Sheryl Sandberg, is a #1 bestseller on facing adversity and building resilience. 3

Stay open, curious and hopeful!

~ Dr. Lynda

Keys to Creativity are found throughout our article!

We’ve written a number of article about the specifics of expanding creativity. Take a look!

Expanding Your Creativity

One of the best places to look is in our archives for “Thought Leaders”.

Thought Leaders


  1. “Adam Grant.” Management Department. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2018. <>.
  2. Grant, Adam. “The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers | Adam Grant.” YouTube. TED, 26 Apr. 2016. Web. 01 Apr. 2018. <>.
  3. “Adam Grant.” Management Department. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2018. <>.

Dr. Lynda is a dentist, artist, global traveler, and philanthropist who looks for potential and shares it with the world. Hear her latest conversations with thought leaders on the Conspiracy of Goodness Podcast--new episodes every Wednesday!