Book Review: Think Again by Adam Grant

took review of think again by adam grant

The Big Idea:

To beat the overconfidence effect in yourself and others you need to argue like you're right but listen like you're wrong.

Background:

Adam Grant was the youngest tenured professor at Wharton School, receiving tenure at the age of 28. He specializes in organizational psychology. He has been Wharton's top-rated professor for seven straight years.  

He's authored four New York Times Bestselling books.  Think Again is his latest work, published in 2021. It has 12,000 customer reviews on Amazon, averaging 4.6/5.

Fun fact: Grant was named an All-American springboard diver in 1999 and he worked as a professional magician during college.

Top 3 Takeaways:

  1. The smarter you are, the more likely you are to fall for overconfidence and the harder it is to see your own limitations.
    • "The goal is not to be wrong more often. It's to recognize that we're all more often than we'd like to admit, and the more we deny it, the deeper the hole we dig for ourselves."
  2. To check your overconfidence, you should think like a scientist.
    • This means seeing your ideas as hypothesis that require testing and retesting.
    • It helps to define yourself by your values rather than your opinions. People often feel as if admitting they are wrong about an opinion is somehow letting themselves down. If you remove your opinions from your self-concept, and instead identify with values like curiosity and flexibility, changing your mind will be a lot less scary.
    • Invite others to question your thinking.
  3. Strategies for helping others change their mind:
    • Use fewer arguments. Don't think of all the reasons you are right, the fewer strong points you make the more likely you are to succeed.
    • Use questions to convince rather than statements. Here are three examples of better questions:
      1. Question how rather than why. When people describe why they hold extreme views, they often intensify their commitment and double down. When they try to explain how they would make their views a reality, they often realize the limits of their understanding and start to temper some of their opinions.
      2. Ask "What evidence would change your mind?" You can't bully someone into agreeing with you. It's often more effective to inquire about what would open their minds, and then see if you can convince them on their own terms.
      3. Ask how people originally formed an opinion. Many of our opinions, like our stereotypes, are arbitrary; we've developed them without rigorous data or deep reflection. To help people reevaluate, prompt them to consider how they'd believe different things if they'd been born at a different time or in a different place.

Rating:

  • Potential life impact: 5
  • Fun to read: 7
  • Likely to recommend it to others: 4
  • Amazing conversations that it can start: 6
  • Total score: 5.5

Final Thought:

I don't know of another business book that more people have owned but not read. Which is ironic. I was one of those people. My neighbor Becky kept telling me how much it aligned with my curiosity work, and in my head I was like, "Yea, yea, I teach this stuff, what could I possibly learn?" And the answer is quite a lot. 

This book should be required reading for every senior leader. And it would be of significant value to parents, teachers, politicians, and those of us who don't want to stop growing and improving ourselves.

At What Age Will I Share it With My Kids?

I think this is a post-college book. Likely a book I will share with them when they take on positions of leadership.

Noteworthy Quotes:

  •  "Intelligence is traditionally viewed as the ability to think and learn. Yet in a turbulent world, there's another set of cognitive skills that might matter more: the ability to rethink and unlearn."
  • "Questioning ourselves makes the world more unpredictable. It requires us to admit that the facts may have changed, that what was once right may now be wrong. Reconsidering something we believe deeply can threaten our identities, making it feel as if we're losing a part of ourselves."
  • "Biases don't just prevent us from applying our intelligence. They can actually contort our intelligence into a weapon against the truth."
  • "If knowledge is power, knowing what we don't know is wisdom."
  • "Thinking like a scientist involves more than just reacting with an open mind. It means being actively open minded. It requires searching for reasons why we might be wrong."
  • From Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio, "If you don't look back at yourself and think, 'Wow, how stupid I was a year ago,' then you must not have learned much last year."
  • "If being wrong repeatedly leads us to the right answer, the experience of being wrong itself can become joyful."
  • "We learn more from people who challenge our thought process than those who affirm our conclusions. Strong leaders engage their critics and make themselves stronger."
  • "Starting a disagreement by asking, "Can we debate?" Sends a message that you want to think like a scientist…and encourages the other person to think that way, too."
  • "Listening well is more than a matter of talking less. It starts with showing more interest in other people's interests rather than trying to judge their status or prove our own."
  • "Great listeners are more interested in making their audience feel smart."
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