That's Interesting

I am a huge fan of Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist, Wharton professor, TED speaker, and NYT best-selling author. As if he wasn't busy enough, he recently launched a podcast called WorkLife that addresses the fact that although we spend a large chunk of our lives at work, we devote too little time to thinking about how to make it better. In the podcast he profiles "unconventional" workplaces, highlighting what works well there, and thinking about how others can take back learnings, tips, and tricks to their own jobs.

While I would obviously recommend subscribing (most episodes are about 30 minutes, perfect for a commute), I wanted to note the most recent episode which featured an interview with Malcolm Gladwell at the 92nd Y.

I'm part of a new team within NYL Ventures, focused specifically on creating the capabilities and conditions to drive innovation across the company. Part of that is training, part is running human-centered design projects. Throughout our work we're helping employees to ideate on problems…thinking of things in new ways, taking a new lens to an old issue. A quote from this episode stood out, and also addresses another tactic I've tried to use - that of orthodoxies, and challenging industry, company, and customer long-held beliefs.

Adam references a paper by Murray Davis called "That's Interesting," saying that "ideas survive not because they're true, but because they're interesting…what makes an idea interesting is when it departs from conventional wisdom." There's some surprise to it. And that people need to understand that "an interesting idea is one that challenges your weakly held assumptions. Whereas if you challenge someone's strongly held assumptions" they don't respond well and will label the idea uninteresting, or worse.

I would take this one step further in thinking about corporate innovation - the ideas that become innovative concepts and create impact are those that are both interesting and useful. Depart from conventional wisdom to be interesting, and challenge assumptions to be useful in a new way. But of course, easier said than done! And hence the work is just starting for our team.