Practical Actions to Unleash Originality

Adam Grant offers 5 practical actions to unleash originality that you can take. The following extract is taken from his bestseller.

1. Ask children what their role models would do. Children feel free to take initiative when they look at problems through the eyes of originals. Ask children what they would like to improve in their family or schools. Then Have them identify a real person or fictional character they admire for being unusually creative and inventive. What would that person do in this situation? 

2. Link good behaviors to moral character. Many parents and teachers praise helpful actions, but children are more generous when they’re commended for being helpful people-it becomes part of their identity. If you see a child so something good, try saying, “You’re a good person because you _________.” Children are also more ethical when they’re asked to be moral people-they want to earn the identity. If you want a child to share a toy, instead of asking, “Will you share?” ask, “Will you be a sharer?” 

3. Explain how bad behaviors have consequences for others. When children misbehave, help them see how their actions hurt other people. “How do you think this made her feel?” As they consider the negative impact on others, children begin to feel empathy and guilt, which strengthens their motivation to right the wrong-and to avoid the action in the future. 

4. Emphasize values over rules. Rules set limits that teach children to adopt a fixed view of the world. Values encourage children to internalize principles for themselves. When you talk about standards, like the parents of the Holocaust rescuers, describe why certain ideals matter to you and ask children why they’re important. 

5. Create novel niched for children to pursue. Just as laterborns sought out conventional ones were closed to them, there are ways to help children carve out niches. One of my favorite techniques is the Jigsaw Classroom: bring students together for a group project and assign each of them a unique part. For example, when writing a book report on Eleanor Roosevelt’s life, one student worked on her childhood, another on her teenage years, and a third on their role in the women’s movement. Research shows that this reduces prejudice-children learn to value each other’s distinctive strengths. It can also give them the space to consider original idea instead of falling victim to groupthink. To further enhance the opportunity for novel thinking, ask children to consider a difference frame of reference. How would Roosevelt’s childhood have been different if she grew up in China? What battles would she have chosen to fight there?