Book Review: Originals

Originals:  How Non-Conformists Move The World, by Adam Grant

There is a moment in this book where my own opinion of the book and its author turned a bit sour.  A discussion of the training of political revolutionaries in Serbia praises the rise of hostile masses to various leaders around the world and the author seems to praise the various revolutions (and, in Syria, attempts at revolution) that have taken place over the last few years.  But in this praise of revolutionaries there is no discussion about how such people have made life more difficult for minorities like Kurds and Yazdis in Syria and Iraq or Copts in Egypt, and then it struck me that this author was more interested in praising non-conformity for the sake of non-conformity rather than for any sort of higher morality that protects minority rights even as it seeks majority rule.  Non-conformity is not a sufficiently high virtue to support when it includes endangering the well-being of people whose cultural views are not so far from my own.  And at that point, along with the author’s praise of younger siblings for their general rebelliousness, that my views of this book became a great deal more negative.

This book contains about 250 pages of material or so in eight chapters.  The author begins with a chapter on creative destruction (1), the difficult business of going against the grain and seeking to create while in the process making drastic changes as to what came before.  After that comes a look at blind inventors and one-eyed investors, examining the art and science of recognizing original ideas and where it goes wrong, as in the case of the Segway (2).  The author then discusses the tricky business of speaking truth to power and showing how delicate of a matter it can be (3).  After this comes a look at settler and second-mover advantage and what is it that can make things disadvantageous for first movers (4).  The author uses the story of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States as an example of the trick of building and maintaining coalitions (5).  After that the author looks at birth order and its effect on rebellion (6), provides a revisionist history on groupthink (7), and the ncloses with a chapter on how to both rock the boat and keep things steady through managing anxiety, apathy, ambivalence, and anger (8).  The book then closes with actions for impact as well as acknowledgements, references, and an index.

This book is a classic example of a work that could have been much better were it not hindered by a high degree of political correctness.  Indeed, the author fails to recognize and comment the way that the leftist political climate of California has hindered the contemporary practice of Silicon Valley companies, many of which are facing some serious political and cultural repercussions for their leftist biases at present, and are showing themselves unable to cope with the reality that they are out of touch with the political worldview of the majority of other Americans because of the leftist bubble they happen to live in.  By and large, the author’s praise for the Occupy movement and his only mild criticism for leftist extremists would appear to indicate a strong leftist bias on his part and a failure to recognize that change for the sake of change is itself not necessarily a good thing, especially when it is divorced from a strong godly morality.  This is a book that strives to encourage people being original and rebelling against societal norms and the status quo, without reflecting on the way that not only do revolutions eat their own children, but often make reality far worse than it was before, and far more divided by those who wish to turn back the clock or push on with the pace of undesirable change.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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3 Responses to Book Review: Originals

  1. Pingback: An Introduction To The On Creativity Project | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Catharine Martin says:

    Many confuse the call to be original with the push to fight against the Establishment. This type of thinking isn’t original at all. It happened in the 1960’s. What is truly original is thinking for one’s self and holding to personal principles based on proving what is true according to an objective, higher, overall standard–instead of the sliding scale, ever-changing one championed by society and peer groups. Standing firm against the tide makes one original and unique; in other words, odd, strange and weird.

    • Yes, precisely that. To the extent that we are honest about who we are, we will definitely be odd and strange on those grounds alone. To be different by being trendy is far from an uncommon pleasure, going back in Western civilization at least to the 1700’s, if not before. It is hardly original to be hostile to establishments, but still very original to be ourselves.

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