To be an Original by Adam Grant

“If originals aren’t reliable judges of the quality of their ideas, how do they maximize their odds of creating a masterpiece? They come up with a large number of ideas. Simonton finds that on average, creative geniuses aren’t qualitatively better in their fields than their peers. They simply produced a greater volume of work, which gave them higher variation and a higher chance of originality. ‘The odds of producing an influential or successful idea,’ Simonton notes, are ‘a positive function of the total number of ideas generated.’ …

From the book ‘Originals‘ by Adam Grant.

While I personally don’t agree with his definition of the procrastination problem, I find this argument on ‘quality versus quantity’ surprisingly pleasing.

‘In every field, even the most eminent creators typically produce a large quantity of work that’s technically sound but considered unremarkable by experts and audiences. When the London Philharmonic Orchestra chose the 50 greatest pieces of classical music, the list included six pieces by Mozart, five by Beethoven, and three by Bach. To generate a handful of masterworks, Mozart composed more than 600 pieces before his death at thirty-five, Beethoven produced 650 in his lifetime, and Bach wrote over a thousand. In a study of over 15,000 classical music compositions, the more pieces a composer produced in a given five-year window, the greater the spike in the odds of a hit.”

– Adam Grant from Originals

“If you want to be an original, ‘the most important possible thing you could do,’ says Ira Glass, the producer of This American Life and the podcast Serial, ‘is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work.’”

One more gem from Adam worth noting here: “It’s widely assumed that there’s a tradeoff between quantity and quality—if you want to do better work, you have to do less of it—but this turns out to be false. In fact, when it comes to idea generation, quantity is the most predictable path to quality. ‘Original thinkers,’ Stanford professor Robert Sutton notes, ‘will come up with many ideas that are strange mutations, dead ends, and utter failures. The cost is worthwhile because they also generate a larger pool of ideas—especially novel ideas.’”

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