Summary of Think Again

summary of Think Again

Today’s article is a summary of Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant.

In Adam Grant’s Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, you’ll discover the science of changing your mind and learn how you can help others learn to change, too.

About Adam Grant

Adam M. Grant has written four New York Times bestselling books with a total circulation of two million copies. They have been translated into 35 languages. Adam also hosts WorkLife, an original TED podcast that tops the charts. His TED talk on Original Thinkers, Givers, and Takers received over 20 million views.

Adam M. Grant is an American psychologist and author, presently a lecturer at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, concentrating in organizational psychology.. At 28, he received academic training, making him the youngest permanent professor at the Wharton School. Adam Grant was Wharton’s top-rated teacher for seven consecutive years. In addition, he was duly recognized as one of the ten most influential thinkers in global leadership and was ranked in Fortune’s 40 under 40.

Introduction

Think Again will make you smarter, more persuasive, and self-aware by realizing the power of humility about what you don’t know, how to identify blind spots in your thinking before they start causing problems, and what you need to do to become more efficient at convincing others of your way of thinking.

Do you remember the Blackberry smartphone? In the year 2009, Blackberry controlled about half of the total smartphone market. They were all the rage; everyone from President Obama to Bill Gates said they couldn’t live without Blackberry phones. But just five years later, they were almost gone – the company now only had a 1% market share.

What really happened? That’s because Blackberry’s creator, Mike Lazaridis, wouldn’t change his mind.

If you remember, Apple’s iPhone started to gain market share at that point. But, as it slowly gained traction, Lazaridis continued to believe that most customers just wanted a phone for the basics – make calls and send emails. He couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to do Much More than that with a cell phone. Well, we all know how that went.

Well, the moral of the story here is that sometimes we have to rethink our beliefs. But, unfortunately, many of us find comfort in conviction and prefer not to reconsider or rethink our beliefs because it is not that easy. What would the world entirely be like if we all practiced regularly to open our minds to new ideas?

In Adam Grant’s Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, you’ll discover the science of changing your mind and learn how you can help others learn to change, too. Grant teaches us why we shouldn’t only allow ourselves to doubt but also entirely rethink our beliefs regularly.

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A Brief Summary Of The Major Points

Think Again addresses cognitive errors, prejudices, biases, and mental blind spots. It examines our failure to change our ideas once we have established them. Whatever knowledge and experience of individuals, they cannot avoid logical errors in their thinking. This includes unfounded opinions, external influences, assumptions, and other subjective perceptions. Moreover, our natural tendency to rely on these distracting cognitive resources leads to poor decision-making, inflexibility, inability to hear and be heard by others, and bigotry.

Using Grant’s psychological knowledge and extracting numerous examples, he suggests a new approach to improve his thinking. It is an approach based on doubting what we know. At the same time, it stimulates people to develop an interest in learning new things and seeing other people’s perspectives. Grant calls this approach “rethinking” innovation. Embracing this mindset will help you and your team improve. It also allows you to change the opinions of others without dividing them into binary groups. Find out how rethinking works in this book, Think Again summary.

Conventional Vs. Alternative View Of Intelligence

Grant begins his book with a story from 1949. A team of smokejumpers battled a vast forest fire. Most of the team kept their gear as instructed, although it slowed them down. Only one person ignored the instructions. Thanks to his quick reaction, he found another solution. Ultimately, it helped him survive.

On this issue, Grant base a conventional view of the idea of intelligence against an alternative. We are used to seeing intelligence as a skill and learning new things. However, the author suggests seeing the capacity to rethink and forget what has already been learned. Cognitive flexibility is the way of putting aside or disregarding our instincts, despite the fact we tend to trust our instincts. We can remain relevant in a world without stability by rethinking and questioning ourselves.

Adam Grant rightly states that even constitutions accept change, so why deny changes in our thought process? When a thought or idea is no longer suitable for us, the best response is to give it up. This is what rethinking is all about.

Prepare for innovations; anchor yourself in flexibility rather than perseverance. People often have strong beliefs and are proud to hold onto them. Grant thinks it works in a static and reliable world. The problem is, we live in a constantly changing environment. So to get noticed, we need to focus on rethinking instead of just thinking.

Grant also proves that rethinking is a skill, but it can also be described as a mindset. People tend to hold onto their old beliefs rather than accept new ones. We succumb to the fear of doubt in the comfort of conviction. We listen or pay attention to ideas that make us feel good rather than ideas that make us think. Innovative thinking means the willingness to accept reality, that facts can change, and what was once true is no longer the case.

The Roles We Play

Grant uses Phil Tedlock’s mindset system to describe our tendencies when talking to others or having an internal dialogue. Whenever we think or speak, we tend to slip into the role of one of these characters: a preacher, a prosecutor, or a politician.

Preachers are only interested in pursuing their own ideas. Therefore, they impose their own beliefs on others in an attempt to protect or popularize them.

Prosecutors strive to win any litigation. They will constantly take action against anyone whose opinion does not agree with theirs.

Politicians, on the other hand, want to please people. So they crave approval but don’t necessarily see the point in finding objective truth.

If you take on any of these roles, you deny the importance of finding the truth in dealing with others. Instead, what really interests you is attacking disagreements, defending your opinion, making peace, or just winning an argument.

Another role suggested by Grant that can help us realize our cognitive potential are Scientists. Scientists live to understand the limits of their knowledge, and we can learn so much from them to improve our thinking process. Being a scientist means experimenting, testing hypotheses, letting go of old beliefs, and accepting new truths. Grant insists that a change of mind is not a weakness. On the contrary, it confirms your intellectual development.

The Right And The Wrong Type Of Confidence

It is impossible to shun blind spots or cognitive distortions in our own beliefs or knowledge, even when we recognize them in others. These blind spots can affect our ability to rethink and give us too much confidence in our judgment. However, it is viable to develop Confidence that will allow us to spot flaws in our thought process. This good kind of confidence will enable us to keep our beliefs up to date. It also helps us recognize our blind spots and properly adjust our mindset.

Neither overconfidence nor lack of confidence is good. Overconfidence is a typical trait of people with armchair quarterback syndrome. They think they know more than they know. The opposite is the imposter syndrome, which occurs in people who still doubt themselves despite the skill and ability to succeed. They feel like they are taking someone else’s place, and that is detrimental to their success.

Grant also gives an example of a survey in which respondents were asked to rate their knowledge against other people. They were as well asked to take a test that assessed their actual level of knowledge. The study found that people who value their learning better than others significantly overestimate themselves. Their overconfidence results in their failure to learn new things and change their views. It ultimately leads to ignorance and arrogance.

The author insists that overconfidence does not show us our mistakes. Instead, he suggests that we teach ourselves to be humble but in a self-assured way. Confident modesty allows us not only to recognize our shortcomings but also to work to overcome them.

The Blessing Of Being Wrong

People hate to be wrong. When someone points out flaws in our beliefs or mindsets, many of us react with anger. We can quickly tell when someone else is wrong, but we don’t want to admit that we aren’t always right. Instead, we fearlessly defend what we believe in. Psychology calls our reluctance to change our minds “totalitarian ego.”

In addition, we become so attached to our beliefs that we don’t want to let go of them. Grant distinguishes between 2 types of harmful attachments. The first describes our affection for the past. We should learn to separate our current selves from the old versions. If we do this, we can prevent depression. In addition, we will be able to see which direction we are going in clearly, giving us more pleasure.

Along with this renewal over time, we need to separate our identities from our beliefs. Otherwise, when we see a major shift in our view of the world, our identities will crumble simply because we will find out that we were wrong. Grant suggests instead developing a value system. This will enable us to change our beliefs while remaining true to our values. In this case, a mistake does not lead to an identity crisis.

The Art Of Conflicting

Since we cannot avoid conflicts, we must learn to deal with them. Adam Grants explains two types of conflict:

Tasks Conflicts. They arise when members of a particular team decide who should tackle a problem, what to do, how, etc. This type of conflict is constructive since it encourages the search for creative solutions.

Relationship conflicts. These happen between people. Often these conflicts are harmful because they negatively affect interpersonal relationships. However, if the parties to the dispute respect each other, they may have a higher level of compassion and cooperation.

Our society tends to view pliability or the tendency to avoid conflict as a positive quality. The author contradicts this perception. He believes that people who aren’t afraid to contradict our opinion make us move forward. They help us assess our skills and find ways to improve.

Collaborative Approach To Interpersonal Rethinking

Grant begins this section with the example of an international debater, Harish Natarajan. In a debate, he defended the unpopular view that the state should not subsidize kindergartens. Initially, almost the entire public had already decided to support kindergarten.

As I said, Natarajan managed to win over the audience using these simple techniques:

  • Common understanding
  • Non-judgmental questions
  • Flexible thinking

Grant calls this effective strategy the collaborative method. He uses humility and curiosity to get the public to think like scientists. Yet, people often take the adversarial approach with them in debates based on the means of communication of preacher and prosecutor.

To help others rethink their beliefs, Grant suggests avoiding extremely rational arguments that a logical bully would use. Even if you are right, the other part will be bitter. A more effective approach is to find common ground and express curiosity through questions. These questions allow the other person to draw their own conclusions, and it’s more powerful than crushing them with logic or reason.

Rivals And Allies

Rivalry is an indispensable part of our life. You can find yourself in sports, in business, in human relations, and so on. The biggest problem with rivalry is that we distance ourselves from the people we compete with. Emotions are the basis of rivalry. When you add them to the equation, you can see that they prevent us from finding common ground with the opposing camp.

It is normal for people to join a team or group in a rivalry. But once we join this team, we expose ourselves to polarization. This means that we only come into contact with other people in this group and not with strangers. During the process of bonding with teammates, our opinions become even stronger. When rivals try to challenge our views, we become hostile.

Think Again provides three exercises to help us rethink our rivalry:

  1. Find a common identity with your opponents.
  2. Empathize with the whole group after applying it to just one member.
  3. Understand that our stereotypes are arbitrary.

Motivational Talking

Grant gives a real-life example of how a single subject can be very effective. In his example, a Quebecer gave birth to a premature baby. The mom is against the immunization, but her children would benefit immensely from the measles vaccine. In other to get her to change her mind, a “vaccine whisperer” was called. This person used motivational interviews to calm the mother down and help her rethink her position.

The three pillars of motivational interviewing are:

  1. Open questions
  2. Reflexive listening and
  3. Encouragement to change.

An interviewer does not try to convince or give advice. Instead, they serve as a guide to guide an interviewee to a favorable conclusion or decision. The most important characteristic of motivational interviewers is that they do not leave an overall impression. Instead, they make their callers feel smart.

Binary Issues

The final third of Think Again aims to help groups embrace the rethinking approach. Grant begins this section with another example from Columbia University’s Difficult Conversations Lab. They found that when speaking to a group, the black and white (i.e., binary) representation of things ended in polarization. But when a subject was unpacked in all its complexity, there were several points of view. This allowed the group to discuss fruitfully and find a better collaboration.

Grant builds on this point and argues that preaching a point with passion is not an effective way to convince others. Instead, you can see the complexity of an issue and make yourself much more believable. For example, when talking to the Conservatives, don’t push for vehicle emission limits to fight climate change. Instead, focus on the economic benefits of green technological innovations. This approach adapts better to the complexity of the problem. At the same time, you can reach out to your audience.

Constantly Changing Knowledge

Knowledge is not fixed in time. Things that we thought were right 20 years ago may seem outdated today. When we acquire knowledge, we either rely on what we learn or remain skeptical. Skeptics focus on the things that are left out rather than the things that are in the picture. This approach helps to keep an open mind and encourages Rethinking.

Many tend to equate skeptics and deniers. Yet, there is a fundamental disparity between the two. Skeptics do not trust the new information they learn. They will take the time to verify the credibility of these newly discovered “facts” before they can believe any. Deniers, on the contrary, reject anything they learn from outside sources. They believe that only their opinion is true. They typically play the role of a prosecutor, preacher, or politician, while a skeptic is a prime example of a researcher or scientist.

Think Again further takes a closer look at the teacher’s role in learning. A good teacher gives us thoughtfulness. A good teacher helps us find new ways of thinking.

The tools we can use to develop our thinking process are:

  • Fact-checking.
  • Denying popularity as an indicator of credibility.
  • Distinguishing between a source of information and its sender.

Collective Rethinking In Corporate Culture

Collectively rethinking also means changing organizational cultures. A culture of collectively rethinking promotes mental safety, such as the ability of team members to take risks without fear of punishment. In teams like this, people are more likely to report issues. The team may change collectively based on information from their errors.

An organization that regards collective rethinking checks the following boxes:

  1. It avoids best practices because it assumes that the team has arrived at an optimal solution. This kind of belief will prevent effective Rethinking.
  2. There is no obsession with results. Such an obsession can help in the short term, but it affects long-term success. Businesses need to remember that good results don’t always come from good decisions.
  3. Each team member is ready to ask themselves and ask the others, “How do you know that?”

Organizations that successfully embrace the culture of learning welcome experimentation. For them, Rethinking becomes an important part of their activities. At some point, it becomes a routine.

Avoid Keeping Your Eye On The Ball

It is human nature to plan. We have insights of where we want to live, who we want to marry, or how big our family should be. With this in mind, we tend to set limits. At best, they help us achieve our goals. More often than not, however, they give us tunnel vision and prevent us from seeing better opportunities.

Worse yet, when our plan doesn’t turn out the way we imagine it, we tend to spend more time and resources fixing things. Alternatively, we can ask ourselves a simple question: “Was this a good plan?” Questioning your plan, rather than implementing it at all costs, is the point of rethinking it. The determination to succeed is great, but it has the opposite effect on mental rigidity.

3 Most Helpful Lessons From “Think Again”

  1. You can never know what you don’t know, so be humble.
  2. With the right tools and experience, even the most ignorant people can change.
  3. Ask people questions to convince them of your opinion.

Do you think you’ve had life all figured out?
You better Think Again!
Let’s get into the details.

Lesson One

If you want to be more competent and likable, admit that you don’t know everything.

Did you know that majority of us are completely ignorant of the things we’re not so good at? Sometimes we mostly think we are good at what we are worst at. For example, studies have shown that people who score the lowest on logical reasoning and humor tests also have the most exaggerated views of their abilities in these areas.

 

To make matters worse, a person who falsely believes they are good at something is less likely to try to improve that skill. For example, a study on emotional intelligence found that participants with the lowest emotional intelligence scores were the least likely to get help improving their emotional intelligence.

So what can we do about this obvious blind spot? Be humble. When you start to admit that you don’t know everything, you open up to learning new things. It will make you more competent. And don’t worry, humility and confidence are not mutually exclusive qualities.

Confidence means self-belief, while humility means being willing to explore your own ways. Successful people have both. These types of people are confident in their ability to be successful, but they are humble enough to judge if they are using the best methods to achieve that goal.

Lesson Two

Most times, even the most ignorant people change their ways.

Grant discloses the story of black musician Daryl Davis. In 1983, he began speaking to members of the Ku Klux Klan to convince them to change races. Since then, he has convinced many KKK members he has spoken to rethink their beliefs and leave. Oddly enough, one of those former KKK members even asked Davis to be his daughter’s godfather.

As Davis’s story shows, one of the best ways to change people’s prejudiced beliefs is to show them how arbitrary beliefs are. When Davis spoke to members of the Klan, he discovered that many only had white supremacy because their families had done so.

So, he encouraged them to think about why they believed in what they were doing, and it shows them how wrong that belief was. From then on, they started to question racism and often changed.

Grant also saw this phenomenon while investigating the feud between Yankees and Red Sox fans. Both parties generally viewed the other group as arrogant, aggressive, and disgusting.

In one experiment, Grant asked baseball fans to write an essay on the coincidence of some of the reasons in which they hated the other side. It also made them think that they would probably want the team they were supporting if they were born into a different family. After writing the essays, fans on both sides realized that their prejudices were indeed wrong and even insane.

Therefore, if you want someone to change, don’t just say they’re wrong and why. One of the best ways to get someone to rethink their beliefs is to show them that chance is the only reason they believe.

Lesson Three

If you want to convince someone of your perspective, ask them the right questions.

Another great way to get people to think about their beliefs is to ask them the right questions. Grant discloses the story of a young mother who was anti-vaxxer or who didn’t want her children to get the measles vaccine.

The maternity staff brought in Dr. Arnaud Gagneur, whom they knew could help them. He used so-called motivational interviewing and an effective persuasion technique that helps people find their own reasons for rethinking rather than just explaining to them why they should change.

This type of interview begins with real curiosity to understand where the belief comes from. Gagneur began by asking the woman open-ended questions about why she felt about the vaccine. Gagneur then began to ask how she thought about the consequences of not vaccinating her child.

A motivational interviewer doesn’t just try to convince someone with lots of facts; instead, they listen. Gagneur, therefore, admitted her fears in a technique called reflective listening. When he finished, he insisted it was her choice.

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Sometimes people don’t change because they want their freedom rather than disagreeing, so it’s important to offer someone the freedom to make their own decisions. After the interview, she decided to allow her child vaccinated without being persuaded.

Conclusion And Final Analysis

The book, Think Again by Adam Grant is an inquisition of the importance of utilizing a rethinking mindset rather than a thinking skill. Grant claims that our tendencies to cling to our beliefs are ineffective. The world is ever changing, and if we are not ready to change with it, we are falling behind. The greatest way to adapt to a constantly changing world is, thereby, to adopt rethinking. Additionally, we can encourage others, including our team members, to take this approach.

And yes! This is the type of book that would do a lot of good if everyone in the world read it. I also like the fact that it will make any person who reads it and applies what it teaches smarter, more humble, and likable as well!

We’re just scratching the surface here. If you don’t already have the original book, “Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant,” order it here now on Amazon to learn the juicy details.

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