Sunday, April 04, 2021

Think Again by Adam Grant

Think Again by Adam Grant is a solid book with the subtitle The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know. Grant is an organizational psychologist who I've written on three prior books by and in this he writes about the need to rethink, to question individual, interpersonal, and collective beliefs and opinions. 

About individual rethinking, Grant notes that it not the changing of one's mind that's important, but the considering whether to change one's mind. With this type of scientific thinking, we refuse to let our ideas become ideologies. We embrace uncertainty and doubt, search for reasons why we might be wrong, and are happy to be wrong as we have learned something new. The opposite of this approach is to be arrogant, which keeps you blind to the things you could do differently. Grant also covers how an important thing is someone’s time horizon. Rather than wanting to be right at a given point, people should want to be right eventually. 

In terms of interpersonal rethinking, Grant covers persuasive listening, asking how someone formed an opinion rather than why they have that opinion and acknowledging common ground in disagreements. He notes how it’s good in a debate to show that you're trying to figure things out, and rather than approaching a debate with a straw man, poking holes in the weakest side of the other person's argument, people should perhaps start with a steel man, considering the strongest version of their argument. Psychologists have found that the person most likely to change your mind is you so often the best thing to do is get people to ask the question of how they feel about something. If you simply try to convince someone of something, them rejecting your argument will likely just make them most steadfast in theirs. Motivational interviewing is just that, a discussion with someone where they’re talking through their point of view and you’re listening to them. Great listeners are interested in making their audiences feel smart, and by listening, you're offering your attention. 

About collective rethinking, Grant covers group polarization reinforcing the stereotypes someone has. It’s ok to have caveats and contingencies to your opinions and the best work is often going to come not at first, but after multiple drafts and iterations. Additionally, he notes that we shouldn’t be asking kids “what they want to be when they grow up.” Jobs are not who people are, and it's better to ask what people like to do. Kids will be more excited about doing science than being scientists. Also, it’s good to have regular checkups with yourself to determine if you're in the right spot with your career or life and if what your spend your time on is the best use of that time. This will be force you to ask the question, and to prevent you from asking it too frequently.

Grant tells stories well in the book, starting off with smokejumpers in 1949 in Mann Gulch, Montana as a wildfire fast approached, and how being stuck in thinking vs. open to something new made all the difference.