Larry Weeks

How To Get Unstuck: Adam Alter On The Structure Of Breakthroughs

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Getting stuck is inevitable. I hope you find yourself getting stuck only rarely, but when you do, know that breakthroughs aren’t too far behind” – Adam Alter 

Today we are going to look at the challenges of creative blocks, inertia, and the accompanying feeling of being stuck, whether it be a project, product, or personal life, and, more importantly, when we find ourselves in these states – how to get unstuck, what is the step by step structure of a breakthrough. 

My guest is Professor Adam Alter.

Adam Alter is a Professor of Marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business and the Robert Stansky Teaching Excellence Faculty Fellow, with an affiliated appointment in the New York University Psychology Department.

Adam is the New York Times bestselling author of two books: Irresistible (March 2017) and Drunk Tank Pink (2013), and his latest which is also the topic of the podcast – is Anatomy of a Breakthrough: How to Get Unstuck When It Matters Most. 

Adam has also written for the New York Times, New Yorker, Washington Post, Atlantic, WIRED, Slate, Huffington Post, and Popular Science, among other publications. Adam’s academic research focuses on judgment, decision-making, and social psychology, with a particular interest in the surprising effects of subtle environmental cues on human cognition and behavior. His research has been published widely in academic journals and featured in dozens of TV, radio, and print outlets worldwide.

In this episode, we delve into these subjects:

  • The commonality of creative blocks; why progress isn’t a straight line.
  • How reactions to being stuck might be the real problem.
  • The process of getting unstuck can lead to valuable advancements.
  • Why the creative process is often lengthy and messy, contrary to many people’s expectations.
  • Why breakthroughs often seem accidental and come after hitting a wall.
  • Do breakthroughs happen more commonly in a group (remote work) 
  • Does creativity decline over time?
  • Breakthrough tactics, including the “friction audit.” 
  • The role of the environment in creativity and progress is significant.
  • The use of AI as it relates to creative blocks. 
  • When should someone quit vs. persist – and much more 


This episode will help you understand the complex dynamics of progress. So, whether you’re wrestling with being stuck or simply intrigued by the art and science of innovation, give it a listen.

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