Robertson Auditorium was filled with about 500 students, faculty and staff who came to see the first talk of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business Center for Positive Organizations Positive Links Speaker Series this semester which featured University alum Adam Grant Wednesday afternoon. Grant, a Wharton School top-rated professor, discussed the seven characteristics he sees original thinkers exhibit in the workplace to the sold out event. The speaker series aims to spreads ideas about positive business practices in the workplace.

Grant received his Ph.D. in organizational psychology from the University in less than three years. The author of multiple bestselling books, he is currently co-writing a book with technology executive and author Sheryl Sandberg about being resilient in times of hardship.

He posited that original thinkers: brainstorm differently, take risks on novel ideas, harness anxiety, make the unfamiliar familiar, are tempered radicals, find the right allies and fight “groupthink.”

“If you track 40 years of data, we know that if you were to take five people and instead of putting them in the same room, if you were to put them all in separate rooms to brainstorm alone, you would get more ideas and better ideas,” Grant said.

Grant further explained original thinkers avoid the typical prototypes that leaders and managers may come up with. He highlighted the importance of brainstorming one’s own ideas, as this promotes divergent thinking.

“Before you judge others’ ideas, spend five minutes brainstorming your own ideas,” Grant said.

Grant also incorporated his psychology background into his lecture. He noted anxiety is a resource that can be converted into productive emotions, such as excitement or enthusiasm.

LSA freshman Leann Abad said Grant’s lecture was a great opportunity to learn the positives of business, as he is currently applying to the Business School.

“I really liked Adam’s whole perspective as an organizational psychologist, because you can see his passion for the research he’s done,” Abad said.

Grant disagreed with the belief that seeking advice in the workplace makes them seem amateur. He discussed the importance of asking for advice, as it may further one’s goals and ideas.

Series host Jane Dutton, a professor of business administration and psychology, said Grant’s efforts have improved attitudes toward relationships in the workplace.

“He’s really had a huge impact on the conversation in business and in work organizations,” she said.

This semester’s Positive Links Speaker Series will continue throughout January, February and April with presentations from the Business School faculty and a professor from Case Western Reserve University. Upcoming topics include promoting a society encompassing the world’s poorest people, presenting oneself positively and confidently, and building positive organizations and their impact on modern day business.

“I hope (this series) exposes (its audience) to top researchers,” Dutton said. “I hope it helps to build community, (among) researchers and practitioners and students, who also care about creating more life-giving workplaces.”

Correction: this article was corrected to specify the speaker series is hosted by the Ross School of Business Center for Positive Organizations. 

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