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How Non-conformists Move The World

Adam Grant

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Call centre workers - why did some stay in job longer than others? Correlation with browser choice - if using Firefox or Chrome instead of (default) Internet Explorer or Safari, stayed 15% longer. But also correlated with higher customer satisfaction scores and even fewer sick days. They appraoched job differently, looking for novel solutions when needed, whereas more conformist stuck doggedly to their scripts.

People want to conform. They are motivated to see the status quo as legitimate, even when it is acting against their best interests. (It's an emotional pain killer - if the world is meant to be this way, then we don't need to be dissatisfied with it.)

Buy glasses online, but people would only do it if could return glasses they didn't like. But thatcould be really expensive if left with unsalable prescription lenses. Overcame by just sending empty frames, which didn't natter if returned.

Most of the great creators produced huge amount of work. A lot of dross, quite a few hits. But the quantity greatly increased chance of producing something that audience liked.

If want to evaluate novel ideas, DON'T use focus groups or managers, bc they see their jobs as finding reasons why it won't work. Instead, ask peers to judge. They are more open to seeing potential of unusual ideas.

Before female suffrage movements, most women had never stopped to think that their degraded status was anything but natural.

Child prodigies rarely become high fliers. They never learn to be original. They focus on perfecting their piano playing rather than on composing novel scores. So used to plaudits for their performance that they dread failure, so play it safe.

Successful enterpreneurs invariably have history of rule-breaking as adolescents.

It's not the idea, it's the execution.

Dean Kamen has long history of successful inventor/entrepeneur, primarily of medical devices. He also invented the Segway, and when he showed it to Steve Jobs, he demanded to be allowed to invest. Jeff Bezos and John Doerr (a top fund manager) equally impressed.

Jobs famous for making decisions based on his gut feelings. But in case of Segway, his enthusiasm for the novelty of the Segway blinded him to fact that he knew nothing about transportation. When he got on it, it felt like a magic carpet ride. But it wasn't practical. Too expensive, but not enough improvement in usefulness.

Intuition is only trustworthy in a predictable environment that you have a lot of experience in.

But in environments which are changing, experience often a hindrance, bc it leads you to the wrong conclusion

Doctors, firemen, chess masters, all operate in predictable environments, where knowledge of past patterns has reliable infoabout any situation you encounter. But for judges, psychiatrists, stockbrokekrs, not so much.

And problem that success leads to hubris. Become overconfident and so less likely to seek critical feedback, even though the context is radically different to where you were successful.

Segway wasn't going to replace car, bus or train, or even bicycle. It was only a sub for walking, and only in some circumastances cd the expense be worthwhile.

Other astronomers had equally good telescopes as Galileo, but he was only one with art training who recognized that the pattern of light and dark on the moon meant it had mountains.

Employers like employees taking initiative in some areas (offering help, gathering new knowledge, seeking feedback). But they don't like suggestions, much less anything that sounds like criticisms.

Two impt variables in social hierachy - power and status. People are punished for trying to exercise power without status. Since they haven't yet earned our admiration, we don't think they have the right to tell us what to do.

People naturally resistant to a sales pitch. You're only telling them the good side of your idea, so they start looking for all the hidden pitfalls. So one alternative is to start with "all the reasons why you shouldn't invest in this project".

300,000 patents a year granted in US

Party game - choose from this list of well-known songs: Happy Birthday, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Jingle Bells, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Rock Around The Clock, and tap the rythm out on the table. How likely do you think your friends will be to guess which one you tapped out? Most expect at least 50% recognition, but in fact lucky to get 2%.

You knwo what it is, bc the tune is playing in your head. But to listeners, it's a disjointed morse code. But you cannot understand how hard it is, bc to you it's as clear as day.

This is an example of how hard it is to communicate new ideas. You've thought intensively about the problem, considered options and consequences. You know the song, the words, and the tune. You cannot imagine how difficult it is for the audience to grasp something new.

There are 4 options for handling a dissatisfying situation - exit, voice, persistence or neglect. Exit - leave job or marriage. Voice - actively trying to improve situation by asking boss for more responsibility, or getting counselling with your wife/husband. Persistence is just gritting your teeth and putting up with the situation. Neglect is reducing effort - doing just enough to not get fired, developing interests that keep you away from your spouse.

Middle status/managers are very conformist. At bottom you can take risks bc nothing to lose. At top you are expected to show some originality. But the middle is insecure - you have a bit of respect and don't want to jeopardize it.

Conventional wisdom that first mover advntage pioneers get lion share over settlers, who wait until market established before moving in. But pioneers 6 times as likely to fail as settlers, and even when do survive, only capture 10% of market.(in a study by Peter Golder and Gerard Tellis in Journal of Marketing Resarch 30 (1993) p158-7.) (But: even when tell people this, they don't believe it. Easy to remember examples of successful pioneers, but we forget the failures.

Choose your maxim - it's not the early bird gets the worm, it's the second mouse gets the cheese. You're usually better off waiting for the first guy to prime the market, and then improve on his product, recognizing where he fell short of satisfying customers.

'Horizontal hostility'. Groups judge similar groups more harshly than ones further away. Vegans hate vegetarians more than they dislike meat-eaters. The vegetarians are waanabes; if they were sincere they'd give up all animal stuff like eggs. Orthodox Jews more hostile to conservative Jews than to Jews that didn't practice at all. If you're a True Believer, you have to be all in.

Movements are started by the most passionate, the most extreme. But their movements fail if they acn't enlist wide support. And to do that, they need to (at least pretend) to moderate their demands. Perhaps the Occupy Wall St protest failed bc implied you had to be prepered to drop everything and camp out in NY (something that few people thought sounded like fun). Perhaps if they'd called themselves the Ninety Nine Percent, and tried a variety of protests that much wider community cd become involved in, they might have got further.

Insiders and outsiders see a group differently. The insiders image of the group is based on the most central and respected fellow member. But outsiders judge a group by the loudest/most conspicuous/most notorious member.

Worst people to associate with are 'frenemies' - people who support you sometimes but undermine you at others. Wearing and demoralising, bc you can't predict their behaviour. Far better to cut them out altogether, and put energy into converting more obvious enemies.

Disney had a successful recipe for films - remake trad tales. The Lion King was outside the box - a completely new story - and execs took a lot of convincing. Tipped balance when someone said 'This is Hamlet' and everyone got it - the uncle kills the father, and the son has to avenge the father's death, but with lions.

The most promising ideas begin with novelty then add familiarity, which capitalizes on previous exposure.

Start presentation with all negatives: "Why you shouldn't invest in this". Disarms audience; instead of hard sell, becomes problem-solving.

Ask people to list 3 things they are happy with in their life, and they much happier than if you ask them for 12 things. Because we rate things on how easy they are to recall, and 12 things quitehard, so you suspect that you're not really happy at all.

Analysed baseball records of player brothers. Younger siblings took more risks. 10x more likely than older brother to try to steal base, and 3x more likely to succeed. Not just baseball - same stats show up, not just in other sports, but also in politics and science.

First borns are set up for success. More likely to become CEOs, win Nobel Prizes, or win eletions.

(Birth order doesn't determine who you are, it just affects the probability that you'll develop a certain way.)

Concept of 'niche picking'. First borns start out as only children, with undivided attention of parents, who they are primed to copy. When next kid arrives, they copy their parents and assert authority over second. So the younger one responds by rebelling.

(But a fine-grained distinction. If second kid just a year younger, he might be strong or smart enough to hold his own (pertic if boy v older sister). And if seven or more years apart, less need to compete.)

The larger the family, the laxer the rules on the later borns. Parents basically exhausted from endless battles and basically give up.

Between ages 2 and 10, parents tell kids to change their behaviour around 50 times a day.

The big difference is how kids are disciplined. If parents explain reasons, kid gets treated with respect. When parents impose rules, teens break them. When they explain, kid internalises the instructions, and they become values rather than rules.

One type of explanation particularly effective - getting kid to see how an action or choice affected others. Ths encourages both empathy and guilt, two prime movers of ethical behaviour.

Two different signs above soap station to get doctors and nurses to wash hands. One sign sad "Hand hygiene prevents you from catching diseases", (had no effect at all, probably bc staff figured they don't catch diseases), while other said "Hand hygiene prevents patients from catching disease", and this one had 10% more staff washing, using 45% more soap.

You'll get about 20% kids cleaning up after themselves if you ask them "to be a helper" rather than just ask "to help." You can halve cheating by saying "please don't be a cheater" rather than "please don't cheat'. People tie the behaviour to their self-image.

"The greatest tragedy of mankind comes from the inability of people to have thoughtful disagreement to find out what's true." (Ray Dalio, founder Bridgewater Associates, one of the most consistently high achieving investment funds ever.)

Affirm character, not behaviour. Not "it was good that you shared your candy" but "You are obviously a good person who shares stuff."

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