Getting a standing ovation at this week's TED Conference, Wharton professor Adam Grant broke down three controversial traits in truly groundbreaking entrepreneurs. The research is from his new book, Originals: How Non-Conformist Rule the World, and in today's talk he busted one of the biggest myths of all: First Mover Advantage.
1. Originals are late to the party
"First mover advantage is a myth," Grant said to the TED audience - and brought the stats to prove it. In a comprehensive business study, 47% of first mover companies would fail in their early years compared to only 8% of so-called "improvers". Great examples include Facebook and Google, dominant startups that came years, if not a decade after their predecessors. "You don't have to be first. You have to be different and better."
2. Originals have doubts about their ideas
"There is a difference between self doubt and idea doubt", Grant argues. Self doubt is believing that you personally, as an entrepreneur, aren't capable of succeeding at your goal. Idea doubt, though, is questioning if your idea is worth your time and, to make it worth your time, constantly looking at ways to improve on it. As he said in a recent Inc. interview with Leigh Buchanan, the first 15 - 20 ideas we have are usually worthless simply because our first thoughts will be too close to conventional thinking. Instead, we should doubt the genius of our ideas and put them under the highest scrutiny.
3. Originals have lots of bad ideas
"Originals are just as afraid as we are, but they are most afraid of failing to try," Grant says. The best way to overcome mediocrity is to make as many attempts at your goal as possible. In the talk, Grant shared data on some of the greatest composers - Mozart, Beethoven, Bach - and how their number of masterpieces paled compared to the sheer volume of works they created. It really comes down to a numbers game. "The more output you get out, the bigger your chances of a masterpiece."
Based on Adam Grant's analysis, the most innovative entrepreneurs aren't afraid to take their time creating (and destroying) ideas until they hit the sweet spot right for the product to launch. Is the first-mover advantage overrated? Let us know what you think.