Back in 2009, Neil Blumenthal approached Adam Grant, his professor at Wharton, about investing in a new eyewear company. Grant said no thanks. If Blumenthal and his co-founders were truly committed to the company, Grant told him, they would have dropped out of school to work on it full time. Not only had they stayed in school but they also arranged backup jobs should the company fail. You’ve likely heard of that startup by now: Warby Parker today is valued at more than $1 billion.
And Grant has gone back on his original thesis about the risk-reward mentality. In Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Grant argues that we all misunderstand nonconformists. Though we think of innovators as creative free spirits who flout convention, the most effective ones are actually practical, operating from within the system to effect change in the wider world. Among Grant’s examples: the creators of Seinfeld and Martin Luther King Jr. And their original ideas–cool glasses, clever TV shows and big dreams–are what drive social progress for the rest of us.
This appears in the February 08, 2016 issue of TIME.
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