For next school year, I’m throwing around the idea of a community book study for the school at which I’m the principal – T. Baldwin Demarest Elementary School in Old Tappan, New Jersey.
Right now, I’m in the process of reading through a few books that could potentially be used. One of these books is Originals by Wharton professor, Adam Grant. While most of the book doesn’t directly discuss education, it does contain countless implications for the field.
In Chapter 3, I was particularly drawn to a section – Putting Your Worst Foot Forward – in which Grant emphasizes the importance of proactively calling attention to the problems with our own ideas. He first illustrates this point by examining how the popular website Babble gained traction:
After having their first child, Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman were appalled by the amount of false advertising and bad advice being offered about parenting. They started an online magazine and blog network called Babble to challenge the dominant parenting clichés and tackle the cold, hard truth and humor. In 2009, when Griscom pitched Babble to venture capitalists, he did the exact opposite of what every entrepreneur had been taught to do: he presented a slide listing the top five reasons notto invest in his business.
Two years later, Griscom took a similar approach when pitching Babble to Disney. One of his slides read: “Here’s Why You Should Not Buy Babble.”
In both instances, Griscom’s strategy worked. The year he pitched to venture capitalists, Babble brought in $3.3 million. Then, Disney ended up buying the company for $40 million.
Grant cites four reasons why we should accentuate the flaws in our own ideas when “pitching a novel idea or speaking up with a suggestion for change.”
- “Leading with weaknesses disarms the audience.” When we’re only presented with positives, we become skeptical and look for holes as if to say, “What’s the catch?”
- “People think an amateur can appreciate art, but it takes a professor to critique it.” We hold in higher regard those who can praise and critique vs. those who heap on nothing but lavish praise. Think restaurants reviews, movie reviews, book reviews, etc.
- “It makes you more trustworthy.” This speaks to the credibility of the person pitching the idea.
- “It leaves audiences with a more favorable assessment of the idea itself.” If the idea is a good one, and we’re already pointing out its worst problems (which aren’t so bad in the first place), there’s nothing damaging left to uncover.
Implications for Education