Be Original Like Temple Grandin

By Deborah Taylor-French on

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Be Original Like Temple Grandin

Nothing rivets an audience like original thinking.

I encourage you to deliver original experience and knowledge.

Sometimes a speaker is so far ahead of her audience, like Temple Grandin, that she must fill in information gaps. She must assist others in making sense of her ideas. Grandin describes herself as a person who thinks in pictures. She is known as one of the world’s most effective animal advocates. Her presentations offer the priceless gift of original thinking.

Time Magazine 2010 named Temple Grandin, Ph.D. one of the world’s 100 most influential people. As an international expert and Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, she delivers original thinking. Both Grandin’s books on animal welfare were on the New York Times bestseller list.

In her public speaking, Grandin educates others on her personal challenges advocating for those, who also have been diagnosed with autism. I admire Grandin for her strength and her courage in the face of popular, wrong assumptions.

I find it remarkable she pursued her work in the male-dominated livestock industry. Watching a movie made about her life gave me chills at the sheer dogged determination with which she fought to gain access to stockyard animals. In just thirty years, Grandin has revolutionized animal movement systems and spearheaded reform for the quality of life of farm animals. When agricultural bosses tore up Grandin’s work, she rebuilt it.

Grandin supplies each innovation with specific examples. In her book “Animals Make Us Human,” Temple Grandin bucks accepted thought on dog training. Inside a chapter devoted to “A Dog’s Life,” Grandin debunks common knowledge about dogs by citing current research: “Dogs need parents, not pack leaders.” Grandin supports this unpopular statement with research observations of wolves in their natural habitat.

She asks why dogs would need aggressive dominant pack leaders when their wild ancestors, wolves live in small families, not massive man-made packs. Wild wolf families share food, avoiding dominance challenges.

She points out most human families do not have forty different dogs from forty different breeds, which might require a pack leader mentality to keep dogs from fighting and vying for leadership. National polls show most families have one dog. A single dog living in a family best compares to a child living with parents. Most dogs see their roles as puppies, wanting to please. Dogs watch people for clues on how they should behave.

Her passion for the humane treatment of animals never stops. She continues to speak out. Facing an audience has rarely been easy for Grandin yet she does it over and over.

I recall both the thrill and the anxiety of facing new audiences. Obsessive about preparation, my usual method meant I spent five to ten hours preparing for each talk.

Grandin’s leadership led to unpopular thinking. Up against business-as-usual and popular thinking, she had to translate her observations and question everything, despite what others believed. Her presentations are based on fresh understanding, inquiry, and clear insight.

I suggest we do the same. Demand a fresh take on our own ideas and on the ideas of others. Risk speaking out from original thought.

So don’t be popular. Don’t follow conventional thinking.

I believe original thinking tops popular thinking—every time. No method, style or presentation aid tops first-hand, original thinking.


A Dog Leader is the most important person in a dog’s life. A Dog Leader gives a dog everything it needs, shows it how to behave and how to stay safe.

About Deborah Taylor-French

Deborah Taylor-French writes on pet topics, animal welfare, dog socialization, and positive leadership. Formerly president of the board of the Cultural Arts Council of Sonoma County, and artist in residence for California’s Artists in the Schools, Deborah holds a M.A. from UCLA. Administrative Manager for Andrew M. Leeds, Ph.D., Deborah is a business consultant and a member of the California Writers Club, Redwood Writers branch. She has raised five adopted dogs.

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