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7 Fascinating Discoveries About Educators from Adam Grant

WorkLife expert shares insights on ways education reveals our hidden potential


Can you remember your first schoolteacher? It’s an important question, because who taught you in kindergarten or prep can affect how much you earn decades later.

This is just one fascinating discovery set out in ‘Hidden Potential,’ organisational psychologist Adam Grant’s latest book. The top-ranking TED speaker and podcaster recently jumped four places to be ranked #2 in the Thinkers50 list of the best management thinkers in the world.

As we countdown to Grant’s first-ever Australian speaking tour in February 2024 when he will discuss exciting discoveries set out in his book, let’s take a closer look at some of his insights into the role of educators, and their outsize impact on students.

1.Experienced Kindergarten Teachers Make a Difference

A groundbreaking study in Tennessee during the 1980s revealed a surprising correlation between experienced kindergarten teachers and students' future success. By age 25, students who had more experienced kindergarten teachers earned significantly more money than their peers.

Remember, this is decades after the influence of that teacher. And, the die was cast early. Grant says these students were also rated higher by their fourth-grade teachers on qualities like:

·       proactivity (trying to solve problems before they occur)

·       prosocial behaviour (helping and sharing)

·       discipline, and determination.

This discovery underscores the long-lasting impact of early education.

2.Looping: Building Stronger Teacher-Student Relationships

In North Carolina and Indiana, a practice called looping has shown remarkable results. Instead of changing students every year, teachers move up a grade with their students.

Grant says in ‘Hidden Potential’ that this continuity allows teachers to develop deeper relationships, tailor instruction, and provide emotional support. The benefits of looping extend to both struggling students and less effective teachers, promoting growth for all involved.

3.Finland's Individualised Support System

Finland, known for its exceptional education system, offers individualised support for every student. Finnish school leaders and principals actively monitor student progress and even dedicate time to teaching classes themselves.

Every school has a student welfare team comprising various professionals, ensuring students receive comprehensive assistance. This support system identifies challenges early, preventing bigger problems from arising.

4.Delayed Reading Instruction in Kindergarten

In Finland, the approach to teaching reading in kindergarten differs from many other countries. While many people have heard of this anomoly in the Finnish education system, Grant says research suggests that delaying formal reading instruction can lead to better reading comprehension in the long run.

He says that Finnish kindergartners focus on developing clear communication skills and storytelling, with reading instruction becoming part of an individualised learning plan based on students' readiness and interest.

5.Motivating Students Through Intrinsic Learning

One of the discoveries can be used to motivate adult teams. Grant says that Finland experiments with ways to make education more motivating. Intrinsic motivation thrives when students have the freedom to explore their interests and share their discoveries with others.

Students' ability to choose what they learn and discuss their interests with peers amplifies their enthusiasm for learning. As Adam Grant says in one of our favourite quotes on potential, perfectionism and procrastination, “Without enjoyment, potential stays hidden.”

This approach in the Finland education system fosters a love for learning that extends beyond the classroom, and you could see how adult team members might also thrive with more autonomy in the workplace.

6.Balancing High Performance and Well-Being

Grant’s research found that, in contrast to other countries, Finland's students achieve high test scores while maintaining a relatively low workload. They do less homework, have lower stress levels, and experience less test anxiety.

This balance between high performance and well-being is a testament to the effectiveness of Finland's education system, emphasising deeper learning, character skills, and intrinsic motivation.

Again, it’s interesting to speculate how a lower workload might lead to higher results for business teams.

7.Embracing Discomfort as a Learning Strategy

You’ve probably self-assessed yourself as a “visual learner” or an “auditory learner.” In ‘Hidden Potential,’ Adam Grant looks at research that shows how your preferred learning style may not be the most effective one.

“There’s just one small problem with learning styles. They’re a myth,” he says.

Learning styles keep you in your comfort zone. But Grant says sometimes learning in a way that makes you uncomfortable can lead to better results, as it requires you to work harder and grow.

Procrastination or languishing, often seen as laziness, are not necessarily so.

Psychologists suggest that procrastination may be a result of discomfort and anxiety related to a task. As Grant shows in examples in his book, seeking out discomfort can be a way to learn faster and more effectively. 

“Procrastination is a common problem whenever you’re pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone.” - Adam Grant

Summing up

Adam Grant's new book 'Hidden Potential' reveals countless ways we can improve the educational outcomes for our children, but also to better ourselves as adults, with dozens of stories and research findings to support them. He deeply understands the challenges of procrastination, perfectionism, and starting from behind, and is keen to speak to Australian audiences about his research, and his decades of research on motivating disengaged teams, retaining talent, managing conflicts, addressing work pressure and burnout, establishing psychological safety, and strengthening culture.

See Adam Grant in person in 2024


If you're interested in seeing one of the world's leading authorities on work culture, psychological safety, and work-life, don’t miss Adam Grant’s highly-anticipated Australian tour in 2024 ADAM GRANT – LIVE: Unlock Hidden Potential & Transform WorkLife. Tickets are selling fast (Some categories SOLD OUT). 


About Adam Grant


Adam Grant is a renowned organisational psychologist, bestselling author, and global influencer. As Wharton's top-rated professor for seven consecutive years, his expertise in motivation, generosity, original thinking, and rethinking has made him a leading authority in his field. In 2023 he is ranked #2 on the Thinkers50 list of the world's top management thinkers.


His five New York Times bestselling books Think AgainGive and TakeOriginalsOption B, and Power Moves have resonated with millions of readers in 45 languages. His latest book is Hidden Potential.


With hugely successful TED talks and his TED podcasts WorkLife and ReThinking, plus a substantial social media following and popular monthly newsletter, Adam Grant is one of the world's most inspiring thinkers and speakers.


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